Seoul, June 20: China's President Xi Jinping is heading to North Korea for a meeting with Kim Jong-un, in the first Chinese state visit to the North since 2005.
The two, who have met in China four times, are expected to discuss the stalled talks over the North's nuclear programme as well as economic issues, said a BBC News report on Thursday.
China is hugely important to North Korea as its main trading partner.
Xi's visit comes a week before the G20 summit in Japan, where he is set to meet US President Donald Trump. It will also be his first meeting with Kim since the Trump-Kim meeting in Hanoi in February ended without any agreement on North Korean denuclearisation.
Xi's two-day visit will be the first by any Chinese leader to North Korea in 14 years and Xi's first since taking power in 2012. It is being seen as a boost for Kim, who has been struggling to maintain momentum after a flurry of diplomatic activity over the past year.
The two leaders will inevitably discuss the stalled nuclear negotiations and the collapse of the Hanoi summit. Analysts say Xi will want to know what happened and whether any way can be found to move things forward and information he could then share if he meets Trump in Japan.
China's main goal is stability in North Korea and economic co-operation, and ensuring that it remains a significant party in the negotiations over North Korea's nuclear programme.
The two communist-led states are old allies. But ties have been strained over the past decade, with Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions viewed critically by Beijing.
The official China Daily newspaper said on Wednesday that the visit would allow the two leaders to "agree on some concrete cooperation projects".
North Korea's economy is struggling under the international sanctions regime put in place because of its repeated nuclear and missile tests.
China, its biggest trading partner, has backed those sanctions but has indicated it would be in favour of some sanctions relief as an incentive for North Korea to denuclearise.
"China has proved to be the main destination for most of North Korea's exports, including minerals, fish, textiles, and also workers," North Korea analyst Peter Ward told the BBC.
Beijing traditionally is also the main importer of goods for North Korea's industry and households. Under current sanctions, a lot of this trade has come to a halt.