North Korean Premier Kim Yong-Il arrived in Beijing on Tuesday as his Stalinist nation prepared for a satellite launch that is widely suspected to be a cover for a ballistic missile test.
Kim arrived on Tuesday morning and will meet with top Chinese leaders during his five-day visit, which comes as their nations celebrate the 60th anniversary of bilateral ties, China's official Xinhua news agency reported.
Much world attention is focused on North Korea after it announced last week it planned to launch a communications satellite between April 4-8.
Washington and Seoul say the launch is to test a missile that could theoretically reach Alaska, an act that would be in defiance of a United Nations resolution.
In recent diplomatic exchanges, US and Japanese officials have said that China is opposed to the missile launch, but Beijing has not publicly expressed any direct opposition.
China is one of North Korea's closest allies and most important trading partners.
It is also host of six-nation talks aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear programmes, which began in 2003 but have been stalled since December last year.
Under a landmark deal reached through the talks in 2007, North Korea agreed to scrap its programmes in exchange for badly needed energy aid and diplomatic concessions.
But the talks, also involving the United States, Russia, South Korea and Japan, became deadlocked when North Korea would not agree on how its disarmament moves would be verified.
The talks also failed to stop North Korea from conducting an atomic test in October 2006.