WASHINGTON — North Korea has responded to a personal letter from President Bush, saying Pyongyang will meet its obligations under a disarmament-for-aid deal and expects the U.S. to do the same, White House officials said Friday.

"We received a verbal reply," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House. "All members of the six-party talks look forward to the full implementation of the Sept. 19, 2005, joint statement and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."

The North conveyed the brief verbal message recently through its U.N. delegation in New York, saying North Korea appreciates Bush's letter and expects each side to keep its part of the agreement, a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk about the delicate diplomacy.

The message was the country's first official response to the letter Bush sent earlier this month to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. It was unclear if the message was from Kim.

Bush's letter to Kim was viewed as an indication of warming ties between the U.S. and North Korea, which the American president had once branded as part of an "axis of evil."

North Korea began disabling its plutonium-producing reactor last month under watch of U.S. experts. In exchange, the U.S. agreed to seek normalizing ties with North Korea and remove the country from terrorism and trade sanctions blacklists.