Diplomatic sources in Washington quoted by the Sankei Shimbun said on Sunday this had been conveyed to the US State Department by officials in North Korea's UN delegation.

Pyongyang has demanded high-level talks with the US on sanctions imposed by Washington against its financial assets, saying the discussions were necessary for progress in the nuclear talks, the last session of which was held in November.

But a meeting between North Korean and US Treasury officials planned for 9-11 December was cancelled after what US officials said were differences over the nature of discussions.

The Sankei Shimbun said North Korea's chief negotiator to the six-party talks, Kim Kye-gwan, had intended to take part in these discussions, and had also hoped for talks with Hill.

Kim had previously said he and Hill had also agreed to hold direct talks on financial sanctions, but Hill said the issue was one of law enforcement and stood outside the nuclear talks framework.

US offer

Washington offered to brief North Korean officials on the legal basis of its crackdown on companies and banks accused of involvement in counterfeiting, money laundering and narcotics trafficking that it says finance Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

N Korea's Kim Kye-gwan wants
to discuss US financial sanctions

But a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Saturday that the US offer to brief North Korean officials instead of sitting down for talks amounted to "backtracking from the agreement on holding talks to find a solution to the issue".

A fifth round of talks on Pyongyang's nuclear programmes broke off in Beijing last month, with the United States and North Korea far apart after Pyongyang offered to freeze but not dismantle its nuclear programmes in return for compensation.

Washington said that was unacceptable.