Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived in North Korea on a two-day state visit to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Xi is the first Chinese leader to visit the isolated country for 14 years, and could provide new support for the volatile economy, which is tied to sanctions.
"This visit is all about timing, as you know, in just over a week, President Xi will meet with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka," said Al Jazeera's Adrian Brown, of Beijing reported on Thursday,
China is the only major ally in North Korea, and the visit is taking place in the midst of renewed tensions on the Korean Peninsula as the United States tries to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.
Xi's retinue includes two senior diplomats, and He Lifeng, the head of the National Development and Reform Commission, said in a brief report to the state media.
While agreeing to UN sanctions for the repeated nuclear and missile tests in North Korea, China has stated that despite some US doubts, they are fully enforced.
China, involved in a bitter trade war with the US, has also defended its "normal" trade and business relations with North Korea.
"Personally, I think the US government and Trump can not make a significant deal in the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula without China's important contribution." Victor Gao, a Beijing-based analyst, told Al Jazeera.
North Korea's official newspaper Rodong Sinmun welcomed Xi's "historic visit" in a cover page comment alongside a detailed profile.
Xi's journey highlights mutual ties that "never waver despite the head wind" and strengthen the "blood ties" between the two peoples, it was said.
The Chinese leader is expected to hold summits with Kim and pay tribute in the Friendship Tower, which commemorates the Chinese troops who fought alongside North Koreans during the 1950-53 Korean War.
"The journey is important, as it has been 70 years since China and North Korea entered into diplomatic relations, which will be a choreographed celebration in North Korea." Al Jazeera Brown said.
"His (Xi) message to Kim will be: Give up your nuclear weapons and we can help you develop your economy.
"Kim is expected to say to him: Please leave the sanctions you have imposed on North Korea behind."
Al Jazeera and news agencies