Lee's visit also comes as China, the main ally of the isolated communist country, seeks to revive the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament, which have been stalled for three years. Besides the two Koreas and China, others in the talks include the United States, Russia and Japan.
During his three-day trip, Lee and his Chinese hosts also are expected to discuss ways to develop their bilateral strategic partnership, as well as maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, China Daily reported, quoting Chinese and South Korean officials.
China is the largest buyer of South Korean goods, while the latter is China's third-largest trading partner after the United States and Japan.
China Daily said the death of Kim Jong Il has focused the world's attention on the Korean Peninsula.
It said South Korea has asked China to help "restrain" the North from any "provocation" or "hostile acts."
Huang Youfu, director of Korean Studies at China's Minzu University, told China Daily Beijing's cautious position about the North has increased the chances of resuming the six-nation talks.
South Korea's Yonhap News Agency quoted some analysts as saying North Korea may resort to another provocation this year to solidify its internal political order.
The report said Lee has signaled readiness to engage with Pyongyang's new leadership, but North Korea has stepped up its bellicose rhetoric against the South.