As hinted at yesterday, it’s happening and this decision will no doubt have far reaching consequences…

The announcement came after North Korea handed over a long-awaited accounting of its nuclear work to Chinese officials on Thursday, fulfilling a key step in the denuclearization process.

Bush called the declaration a positive step along a long road to get the nation to give up its nuclear weapons. Yet, he remained wary of the regime, which has lied about its nuclear work before. And North Korea’s declaration, received six months late, falls short of what the administration once sought, leaving it open to criticism from those who want the U.S. to take an even tougher stance against the regime.

“We will trust you only to the extent you fulfill your promises,” Bush said in the Rose Garden. “I’m pleased with the progress. I’m under no illusions. This is the first step. This isn’t the end of the process. It is the beginning of the process.”

My question now…why not Cuba? I mean, are we comfortable with setting the precedent that we’ll lift sanctions only if you have the potential for nuclear armaments? True, Cuba has numerous and long reaching human rights abuses, but I think it has been demonstrated throughout the years that North Korea is far more authoritarian than Cuba ever was.

And then there’s the question of Iran. What makes them different? Ties to terrorists? An unwillingness to give up the idea of using nuclear energy to power their infrastructure? Pointed sabre rattling? Because let’s not forget that North Korea has engaged in the exact same things too, except they didn’t threaten Israel. So, if we’re going to take a fair look at the differences here, Israel is really the biggest difference.

One particularly bright spot is that this decision does set up a bi-partisan framework to engage in diplomacy with our most strident foes. In other words, I’m expecting all of those on the right wing who would criticize a President Obama for a move like this to do the same thing currently to Bush. And the same goes for the left wing and praise.

So…what do the candidates have to say?

Obama has already issued a statement praising the decision

:“This is a step forward, and there will be many more steps to take in the days ahead,” he says in a statement that also voices conservative caution. “Critical questions remain unanswered. We still have not verified the accuracy of the North Korean declaration. We must confirm the full extent of North Korea’s past plutonium production. We must also confirm its uranium enrichment activities, and get answers to disturbing questions about its proliferation activities with other countries, including Syria.”

I’ll get McCain’s once it’s posted.

A couple Republican lawmakers are not happy campers…

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed her “profound disappointment” over the decision, while Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, also expressed his outrage.

“Lifting sanctions and removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism flies in the face of history and rewards its brutal dictator for shallow gestures,” said Hoekstra, who has not shied away from criticizing the White House in recent years.

Good to see some transparency even though I disagree.

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