Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived for a two-day state visit to North Korea where he is expected to talk with leader Kim Jong Un about the stalled negotiations with Washington over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.
China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that Mr Xi was accompanied by his wife, Peng Liyuan, and several Communist Party officials.
He is the first Chinese president to visit North Korea in 14 years.
The summit comes as both leaders are locked in separate disputes with the United States — Mr Xi over trade and Mr Kim over his nuclear weapons.
A Xinhua commentary said China could play a unique and constructive role in breaking the cycle of mistrust between North Korea and the US so they can work out a roadmap to achieve denuclearisation.
The US has demanded that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons development before international sanctions are lifted.
North Korea has sought a step-by-step approach in which a step toward its denuclearisation would be matched by a concession from the US, notably a relaxation of economic sanctions.
China backs what it calls a “suspension for suspension” proposal.
Xinhua said both sides “need to have reasonable expectations and refrain from imposing unilateral and unrealistic demands”.
Experts say Mr Xi will likely endorse North Korea’s calls for an incremental disarmament process.
Chinese and North Korea media have said Mr Xi would stay in Pyongyang for two days.
His meeting with Mr Kim would be their fifth summit since Mr Kim entered nuclear diplomacy with the United States and South Korea early last year.
In an essay published in both countries’ official media before his trip, Mr Xi praised North Korea for moving in the “right direction” by politically resolving issues on the peninsula.
He did not mention Mr Kim’s nuclear diplomacy with the US in the article, much of which focused on lauding the neighbours’ seven-decade relationship.
Mr Xi said his visit will “strengthen strategic communication and exchange” between the traditional, though sometimes strained, allies.
The nations fought together in the 1950-53 Korean War against the United States, South Korea and their allies, but there has been friction in recent years, especially over the North’s relentless push for nuclear weapons.