Beijing may soon receive its first official visit from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, if recent high-level visits are any indication.
Last week, the North Korean Public Security Minister went to China to meet with a Politburo official, according to the Telegraph. And on Monday, a Chinese diplomat visited the North Korean capital of Pyongyang to meet with officials there.
In the past, these meetings were often a prelude to former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's visits to China. After he died in December, his son Kim Jong Un assumed the title of Dear Leader.
North Korea expert and author Michael Breen told The Telegraph that a visit to Beijing would show that Kim Jong Il was following in the footsteps of his father in establishing a strong diplomatic relationship with China.
"The trip serves two purposes: securing Chinese aid... and to strengthen confidence in his leadership in Pyongyang," he said.
North Korea is in dire need of international assistance, and China can be a useful donor when the United States refuses to pitch in.
According to a United Nations report in March, more than 6 million people in North Korea are in desperate need of international food aid. The U.S. has been a prominent food aid donor to North Korea in the past, but virtually no food aid has been delivered since early 2009.
This makes China a valuable ally. The international community will be watching closely to see how Kim Jong Un builds on that relationship if he visits Beijing in the coming months.