North Korean authorities have tightened security around a rail border crossing into China, indicating leader Kim Jong-il may be about to visit his neighbour and biggest benefactor, a report said on Wednesday.
Kim's rare trips to China have led to moves that decrease the security threat Pyongyang poses to the region. The focus of this visit would be whether Kim will end his year-long boycott of international nuclear disarmament talks, analysts said.
North Korea on Tuesday shut a customs house in the northwest part of the country near the Chinese border city of Dandong, effectively closing the region, and sent police to reinforce the rail link, Japan's Nihon Keizai newspaper reported.
The reclusive Kim last visited China in January 2006, taking his armoured train across the border for an inspection tour of China's economic achievements that his official media did not announce until after he was safely back in North Korea.
A trip to China in 2000 was soon followed by a summit in Pyongyang with South Korea's leader and the start of two major development projects in North Korea. A China trip in 2004 led to a push for talks on the North's nuclear programmes.
North Korea last month indicated it was ready to revive dormant disarmament-for-aid talks hosted by Beijing that also include Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States.
North Korea's broken economy has been dealt a heavy blow by fresh UN sanctions imposed after its nuclear test in May 2009 that may be forcing Kim back to the bargaining table in the hopes of securing aid, analysts have said.