Pyongyang's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the United States, North Korea and other major parties had agreed to the date after a series of discussions.

An earlier round of talks involving North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia was held in Beijing in August, but ended inconclusively.

Despite months of diplomacy, the various parties have failed to reach an agreement on when to hold a follow-up round.

US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage confirmed the talks would start soon, but refused to give a date.

"I suspect that we'll have an announcement in the not too distant future," Armitage told reporters in Tokyo.

'Unstable situation'

"The stakes are too high. We simply cannot allow the situation to continue to slide in the wrong direction"

Richard Armitage,
US Deputy Secretary of State

He had said on Monday the stalemate over North Korea's nuclear arms programme was a "dangerous and unstable situation".

"The stakes are too high. We simply cannot allow the situation to continue to slide in the wrong direction."

Chinese officials also said on Tuesday talks would resume on 25 February and hoped it would achieve results.

"The conditions for talks are there," foreign ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue told reporters, adding that the negotiations would again be held in Beijing.

"We hope they can achieve substantial results."

The crisis over North Korea's nuclear programme came to a head in October 2002 when US officials said Pyongyang had admitted to pursuing a clandestine weapons programme.

The United States wants North Korea, at least by the end of the next round of talks, to commit to dismantling any nuclear arms programmes.

Once that is done, Washington has offered to give details of security guarantees for North Korea, which US President George Bush has labelled part of an "axis of evil".