North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing yesterday, a visit seen by some as an effort to put China at ease over North Korea's ties with the US after the two countries held a historic summit just a week ago.
As the visit is taking place in the midst of a major trade row between China and the US that is threatening to turn into a full-fledged trade war, some analysts think the Chinese could be taking this opportunity to let the United States see that its trade actions could affect other areas of its bilateral relationship with China.
Mr Kim's two-day visit that began yesterday was reported on state media including China Central Television (CCTV), unlike his past visits that were reported only after he had left the country.
In March, Mr Kim visited China for the first time in his six years in office, prior to his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
His second visit last month took place ahead of his summit with US President Donald Trump last week.
During their meeting at the Great Hall of the People yesterday, Mr Xi told Mr Kim he was pleased with the positive results of Mr Kim's summit with Mr Trump in Singapore, including reaching a consensus on denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
Emphasising that it was their third meeting in three months, Mr Xi said the two countries have "opened a new chapter" in the development of their relations, said CCTV's report.
"No matter the changes in the international and regional situation, China's party and government's resolute position on being dedicated to consolidating and developing Sino-North Korea relations will not change," he was quoted as saying.
"The Chinese people's friendship for the North Korean people will not change, and China's support for socialist North Korea will not change," said Mr Xi.
During their Singapore summit, Mr Kim, who is Chairman of the State Affairs Commission, promised complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula in return for security guarantees from Mr Trump.
The US President also agreed to stop "war games", joint military drills between the US and South Korea that the North has opposed to as "provocative".
Professor Su Hao of the China Foreign Affairs University said Mr Kim's visit was important especially given the concessions from Mr Trump to North Korea, including the softening of the US stance on denuclearisation by not emphasising the need for it to be verifiable and irreversible.
This gave the impression that the US was trying to win North Korea over to its side to reduce China's influence on the Korean peninsula.
"Kim Jong Un needs to make clear his attitude towards China, that he is not leaning more towards the US, to set China at ease," he added.
Professor Shi Yinhong of Renmin University said Mr Kim also needs China to be on his side in his "big gamble" with Mr Trump, and needs China to be more involved in the Korean peninsula processes.
At the same time, he also wants to obtain economic help from China.
As for Mr Xi, he probably hopes - through his growing influence on the North Korea issue - to give Mr Trump an "indirect warning" that if he angers China, it could undermine him on the issue, said Prof Shi.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry spokesman said Seoul and Beijing shared the strategic goal of completely denuclearising the Korean peninsula, reported Reuters.
Mr Noh Kyu Deok said Seoul hopes China will play a "constructive role" in resolving the issue, and that Mr Kim's visit to Beijing would contribute to that.