The difference this time is that $25 million in North Korean funds, formerly frozen in a Macau bank account, have been transferred to North Korean control. Now, the deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Olli Heinonen, is on his way to North Korea to begin talks on how inspectors will handle (and verify) the reactor shutdown.
The breakthrough, and potential for restarting further talks on North Korea's nuclear program overall, comes after a visit to North Korea by U.S. envoy Christopher Hill. The potential for success in North Korea may heighten tensions inside the Bush Administration where Vice President Dick Cheney has favored greater isolation of states like North Korea and Iran. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has argued for more direct engagement.