North Korea's second-ranking official is in Beijing for talks with Chinese leaders, who plan to pressure Pyongyang to return to multi-party talks on its nuclear ambitions.
Kim Yong Nam, the North Korean parliament's top official, arrived in Beijing Monday for talks with President Hu Jintao and other Chinese leaders.
China has hosted three inconclusive rounds of talks on the North's nuclear weapons program, and has been trying to convince Pyongyang to return to the negotiations.
Pyongyang's refusal to commit to further talks suggests it is waiting until after the U.S. presidential elections. Analyst Scott Snyder of the Asia Foundation in Washington says China is fighting to maintain a failing momentum. "As a result of the relative lack of forward movement over the course of the first three rounds, it's not clear what [North Korea's] commitment would be to this process if it is deemed that the process is not yielding results," he said.
The discussions, which have also involved Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States, failed to resume as scheduled in September after North Korea's refusal. Pyongyang's official reason was that it first wanted an investigation of nuclear experiments conducted by South Korea decades ago, but only recently revealed.
Mr. Kim arrived in China one week before a scheduled visit by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who will also be visiting Japan and South Korea. The U.S. diplomat is expected to push for a new round of talks on the North Korean issue - a topic that figured prominently in the debates leading up to next month's presidential elections.
China is North Korea's chief supplier of food and fuel, and Washington and others have called on Beijing to use its influence on North Korea to bring it back to the negotiations.