North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is planning a visit to China this month, a Japanese news report said Friday, DPA reported.
The trip could take place as early as mid-March, soon after the annual session of China's National People's Congress, which began Friday, the Kyodo news agency said, quoting a Beijing source.
It would be Kim's first trip to
China, one of North Korea's only allies, in more than four years and his first overseas visit since his suspected stroke in 2008.
Beijing was expecting Pyongyang to respond positively to diplomatic pressure to restart stalled six-country talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, the report said.
If he visits Beijing, Kim was likely to ask for Chinese assistance in rebuilding his country's ailing economy, according to the report.
Rumours of a Chinese trip have abounded since Wang Jiarui, the Chinese Communist Party's top diplomat, extended an invitation to Kim when he visited Pyongyang in February.
During Wang's visit, Kim said he was prepared to resume the nuclear talks but did not announce a return to the negotiating table.
North Korea walked out of the talks - in which China, the United States, South Korea, Russia and Japan are also involved - in April over UN sanctions imposed on Pyongyang.