North Korean politician Jang Song Thaek met in Beijing with Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming to discuss bilateral economic activity. Trade with China makes up nearly all of North Korea's foreign economic activity.
Jang is the highest-ranking North Korean official to visit with Chinese officials in Beijing since Kim Jong Un, his nephew, came to power in December. Lee Seung-yeol, a research fellow at the Ewha Institute of Unification Studies in Seoul, told Bloomberg News that Pyongyang was trying to open the economic doors.
"North Korea wants to open up its economy to the outside world without undertaking reforms, and that means economic development centered on special economic and trade zones and sending its domestic labor force abroad to earn foreign currency," he said.
North Korea's need for aid was highlighted by massive flooding in late July. A deal for U.S. food assistance collapsed in April after North Korea reneged on a pledge to halt certain military activities.
China joined members of the international community in calling for restraint after North Korea tried to send a satellite into orbit in April. Similar efforts in 2006 and 2009 coincided with the tests of nuclear devices.