China, Japan, Russia, the US and the two Koreas agreed to "reconvene at the earliest opportunity," Wu said.

 

The talks in Beijing are the first since North Korea tested a nuclear device in October.

 

Refusal

 

During five days of meetings in Beijing, negotiators said Pyongyang refused to discuss its nuclear weapons programme and demanded that the US remove financial restrictions it has imposed on the government.

 

"Our goal is denuclearisation. Period"

Christopher Hill, US Assistant Secretary of State

In more than three years of meetings, the North has committed in principle to disarm, but has not taken any decisive steps to curb its nuclear weapons programme. It conducted its first nuclear test on October 9.

 

"There will be opinions questioning the credibility of the six-party talks," Kenichiro Sasae, Japanese envoy, said. He did not say what alternatives existed to multinational dialogue.

 

Speaking before the fifth day of talks commenced, Christopher Hill, the US assistant secretary of state and envoy to the talks, said North Korea had not addressed the issue of its atomic programme.

 

"When the [North] raises problems, one day it's financial issues, another day it's something they want but they know they can't have, another day it's something we said about them that hurt their feelings," Hill said.

 

"What they need to do is to get serious about the issue that made them such a problem ... their nuclear activities...Our goal is denuclearisation. Period," he said.

 

Isolation

 

Pyongyang says the US is trying to isolate North Korea from the international financial system and has insisted that such a campaign ends.

 

The US accuses North Korea of involvement in the counterfeiting and laundering of money. It has blacklisted Banco Delta Asia, a Macau bank that it alleges the North used to launder money to fund its weapons programme.

 

Negotiators say North Koreans have refused to talk about their nuclear weapons programme until financial restrictions are dropped.

 

Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State, echoed the US administration's view that financial issues and nuclear talks should be dicussed separately. She said the North Koreans had themselves asked for a separate working group on the matter.

 

The US agreed and sent a separate Treasury delegation that held talks with North Korean officials in Beijing for two days this week.

 

The talks reached no agreement, but are expected to continue in New York in January.