North Korea's secretive leader Kim Jong-il toured east China on Monday, while the U.S. government team flew to North Korea to assess food shortages.

Robert King, U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, departed for Pyongyang on a five-day visit, to verify food supply surveys conducted by the United Nations and U.S.-based charities.

North Korea has asked for food assistance when a bitter winter hit the staple crops in January.

A U.N. World Food Program assessment that was released two months ago found that the North Korea’s public distribution system would run out of food between May and July.

Kim visited an industrial park and a shopping center on Monday and is supposed to meet with Vice President Xi Jinping and former President Jiang Zemin, South Korea's Yonhap News agency reported.

China, Premier Wen Jiabao has confirmed Kim’s visit, saying China invited him to study Beijing's market-oriented development that made the economy into the world’s second largest economy.