Chang Song-Taek, uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, is visiting Beijing, amid signs the impoverished state wants to tackle its economic problems.
Chang Song-Taek, who some observers believe is the key power behind Kim Jong-Un, arrived in Beijing on Monday, state media said.
He will discuss joint development of two special economic zones, KCNA news agency said.
Chang Song-Taek is married to late leader Kim Jong-Il’s sister.
He was named a vice-chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission in 2009, and before that had a number of high-profile roles in the party. He accompanied Kim Jong-Il, who died in December 2011, on several of his foreign trips.
North Korean state media said Chang Song-Taek would be discussing joint economic projects in Rason, on North Korea’s east coast, and Hwanggumphyong, on the border with China.
No further details were given. The two Koreas currently have a joint industrial zone running in Kaesong, which helps boost the state-run North Korean economy.
North Korea has been hit by flooding in recent months and has appealed for food aid. It suffered a famine in the mid-1990s which is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Since then, it has remained unable to grow enough food to feed its people.
The visit comes after senior Chinese diplomat Wang Jiarui visited Pyongyang earlier this month, the China Daily said.
It also follows the removal in July of army chief Ri Yong-Ho in a high-level military reshuffle. A previously little-known general, Hyon Yong-Chol, was named as his replacement.
Ri Yong-Ho’s demotion was attributed to illness, but has been widely interpreted by analysts as a move aimed at stamping the authority of the new leader on North Korea’s powerful army.