North Korea Friday freed a U.S. helicopter pilot it had held for 13 days, allowing him to fly home to Florida for New Year's Day and keeping alive its nuclear deal with the United States.

Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Hall looked pale and drawn and was wearing the same flying suit he wore when his helicopter went down in North Korea Dec. 17 as he crossed the heavily fortified Korean border into South Korea.Hall, 28, flew to Seoul for a medical checkup and debriefing and then left for the United States in the evening.

In Brooksville, Fla., Hall's family wept and hugged one another when they learned he was free.

President Clinton expressed his relief at Hall's release. He said he had spoken with Hall by telephone, and that Hall had said he was well.

Clinton, asked Friday what the United States may have given up to secure Hall's release, said "both sides saved face by this agreement."

The agreement included a provision for the United States to pursue future contacts with Pyong- yang. Clinton said that was consistent with U.S. policy. He rejected the suggestion that those contacts would cut out South Korea, a major concern of America's longtime ally.

"We were faithful to all of our commitments to our allies and our commitments to our own policy," Clinton said.

The talks between Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Hubbard and the North Koreans took a serious turn Thursday, and U.S. officials believe the deal that eventually was struck won the endorsement of Kim Jong Il, the highly secretive North Korean leader.

"This is a moment of great happiness for the American people," said Hubbard, who returned with Hall.

Under the accord reached in October, designed to eliminate North Korea's ability to produce nuclear arms, Washington is to arrange the supply to Pyongyang of new nuclear reactors costing $4 billion and interim supplies of fuel oil.

"The DPRK has up to now faithfully implemented its part of the agreed framework and we believe that it is in our interest that we do the same and we are therefore pleased that we can now look to the future and implement the important project."

The two countries also agreed to take steps toward establishing normal diplomatic relations.

Hubbard said he had "two rather difficult days" in Pyongyang working for Hall's release, but he had cut no deals.

Pyongyang says it brought down the U.S. helicopter with one shot and Hall's co-pilot David Hilemon, whose body was handed over last week, was killed in the crash.

It accused the Americans of espionage and issued what it described as Hall's confession to "illegal intrusion." Washington says the helicopter strayed across the border accidentally.

Clinton also said the United States had given up nothing in the agreement that secured Hall's release.

"Chief Warrant Officer Hall was held for too long after his helicopter strayed off course on a routine training mission. But we are very glad that he has been released and is now in freedom," the president said.

Hubbard said the United States had not negotiated for Hall's release, but only stated its case and expressed its "sincere regrets" for the "accidental intrusion."

Pyongyang radio, monitored in Tokyo Friday, said North Korea agreed to return Hall because the United States had "accepted our demand."

"North Korea asked for, and the United States agreed to, further bilateral military contacts to prevent incidents which threaten peace and security on the Korean peninsula.

"The United States also agreed to our demand to give necessary cooperation so that unconverted prisoners of war (North Korean soldiers held by South Korea) can be returned home quickly," it said.

In Seoul, Hubbard expressly denied there had been or would be bilateral military contacts with the North, and said the prisoner of war issue was for the two Koreas to discuss.

The U.S. military says contacts between North Korean and U.S. army officers over Hall were carried out on the U.S. side under the auspices of the U.N. Command in Korea, which supervises the Korean War armistice.