North Korea told the U.S. government it wanted to establish a mutual assured destruction relationship with Washington when the two countries held informal talks shortly after Pyongyang's nuclear test in January 2016, a former senior U.S. official said Sunday.

During the informal talks in mid-January, the U.S. government replied to North Korean participants that it cannot accept such a deal, according to the official who declined to be named.

North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations Ja Song Nam joined the informal contact with the U.S. side in Kuala Lumpur, the official added.

North Korea's move was seen as sounding out the U.S. position under the administration of President Barack Obama with regard to Pyongyang's ambition to be recognized as a nuclear power in the international community.

While expressing its intention to continue nuclear development, North Korea said in the meeting that Pyongyang and Washington could avoid a nuclear war by possessing nuclear weapons capable of retaliatory attacks, the official said.

In response, the U.S. participants said the MAD strategy would not work like the relations between the United States and former Soviet Union during the Cold War, citing a gap in nuclear forces between the United States and North Korea.

The U.S. participants also stressed it is necessary to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula for peace and stability in Asia, the official added.

The informal talks involved five people from each side.