Chinese President Xi Jinping started a historic visit in Pyongyang on Thursday to reboot a troubled alliance, as he and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un face their own challenges with US President Donald Trump.
Xi is the first Chinese president to visit North Korea in 14 years, after relations between the Cold War era allies deteriorated over Pyongyang's nuclear provocations and Beijing's subsequent backing of UN sanctions.
Xi and Kim have been working to repair ties, with the young North Korean leader visiting his older ally four times in China in the past year and Beijing calling for sanctions to be relaxed.
But the Chinese leader waited to reciprocate the visit, biding his time to see how nuclear talks between Kim and Trump would play out before deciding to travel to Pyongyang, according to analysts.
After Beijing's own trade negotiations with Washington hit a wall last month, some analysts believe Xi could come back from Pyongyang with leverage for his meeting with Trump at the G20 summit in Japan next week.
"When both China & North Korea are confronted by US, they have a lot to discuss with each other," Lijian Zhao, the deputy chief of mission of China's embassy in Pakistan, wrote on Twitter.
Xi, who will pay a two-day state visit, arrived in North Korea late Thursday morning, China's CCTV said.
He is visiting with his wife Peng Liyuan, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and other officials, according to Chinese state media.
In Pyongyang, Chinese flags hung throughout the city and residents lined the streets to welcome Xi.
The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the ruling party, devoted the top half of its front page to Xi's visit, with a colour picture of him accompanying a profile.
In an editorial, it said the visit comes "despite the emergence of urgent and important tasks due to complex international relations clearly shows that the Chinese party and government are putting high importance on the DPRK-China friendship".
"Our people are proud of having a trustworthy and close friend like the Chinese people," it added.