Chinese President Xi Jinping will embark on a two-day visit to North Korea on Thursday in a surprise move shortly before his scheduled meeting with United States President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, later this month.
Xi is making the trip "at the invitation" of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Xinhua reported Monday. The North Korean state media also confirmed the visit.
The meeting comes at a time when nuclear negotiations are stalled between Washington and Pyongyang and an ongoing trade war between China and the US.
China and North Korea have had a fraught relationship for decades, but an unexpected visit by Kim to China in March 2018 signalled the beginning of a new era of Beijing-Pyongyang relations. The North Korean leader has visited China four times in the past year, CNN reported.
This week's state visit will make Xi the first Chinese leader to visit North Korea since his predecessor, Hu Jintao visited the country in 2005.
China's state broadcaster CCTV quoted the Communist Party's International Department as saying that Xi's visit would "inject new momentum" into the relationship.
Xi's trip would come 70 years after the start of diplomatic relations between the North and China, CCTV said. A year later, in 1950, China began fighting alongside North Koreans against the United States in the Korean War.
Some Chinese analysts also believed that Xi's visit North Korea might help in reviving the unsuccessful disarmament talks between Trump and Kim since the Hanoi talks in February abruptly ended without reaching any deal.
According to The New York Times, China is an important ally of North Korea and has helped Kim at times by illegally supplying oil to the North in violation of international sanctions.
( With inputs from ANI )