North Korean leader Kim Jong Il denied Pyongyang's alleged involvement in the sinking of a South Korean warship during his visit to China early this month, sources close to six party denuclearising talks said.
"North Korea has maintained that it has nothing to do with the sinking" of the 1,200-ton patrol ship Cheonan in late March, the sources quoted China as telling South Korea, the United States, Japan and other countries about Kim's visit to China from May 3 to 7.
China indicated that Kim and Chinese President Hu Jintao discussed the issue during talks in Beijing, the sources said.
North Korea is suspected to be responsible for the incident, which occurred near the South's western sea border with the North and killed 46 sailors. An international investigation team has yet to determine the cause.
During the China trip, Kim did not respond to Beijing's three-step proposal to resume the stalled six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programs, according to the sources.
As China failed to win Kim's agreement to the proposal, some involved in the multilateral nuclear talks said North Korea "effectively moved back its position" on the denuclearising process.
The sinking of the Cheonan and the six-way talks are likely to top the agenda when foreign ministers of Japan, China and South Korea meet this weekend in Gyeongju, southeastern South Korea.
South Korean officials said Seoul will announce results of the ongoing investigation in the Cheonan case around May 20.
In February, China sounded out other six-party members - North and South Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States - on a three-step proposal to revive the six-party talks, which Pyongyang quit last year.