North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il pledged again to remove nuclear weapons from the peninsula, and also sent his top nuclear envoy to Beijing in a move that could bode well for stalled disarmament talks.
While Kim Jong-il has made, and broken, similar pledges before, analysts said pressure has been mounting through U.N. sanctions imposed after its nuclear test last year, as well as a botched currency reform that the South said sparked inflation and rare civil unrest.
China's Xinhua news agency said Kim reiterated his country's "persistent stance to realize the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula" during a meeting Monday with senior Chinese official Wang Jiarui.
North Korea's top nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye-gwan, arrived in Beijing Tuesday, suggesting a possible resumption of stalled discussions hosted by China and including Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States.
In another high-profile visit to the country, U.N. under-secretary-general for political affairs, Lynn Pascoe, was expected to arrive in Pyongyang Tuesday.