April 24 (UPI) -- As Kim Jong Un prepares to hold his first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korea is sending a foreign trade delegation to Beijing ahead of China's One Belt One Road forum.
Pyongyang's state-controlled news agency KCNA reported Kim Yong Jae, the minister of external economic relations, and his delegation, left for Beijing on Tuesday to take part in the second biennial forum on China's economic initiatives.
The North Korean delegation is expected to stay in the Chinese capital for four days, according to state media.
A total of 37 heads of state, including chiefs of organizations like the International Monetary Fund, are expected to be in attendance.
Kim Yong Jae was welcomed by Chinese officials and ushered to a VIP room at Beijing's Capital Airport, then later escorted to vehicles provided by Chinese authorities, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
A source in Beijing told Yonhap Kim Yong Jae also attended the forum the year before last. The South is sending Hong Nam-ki, currently the minister of economy and finance who is simultaneously serving as deputy prime minister.
In 2017, officials of North and South crossed paths at the Chinese forum. Park Byung-seok, a lawmaker from South Korea's ruling Democratic Party, strongly criticized the North at the time for missile tests, according to Yonhap.
Putin is expected to join the forum on Friday, after concluding his summit with Kim Jong Un in Vladivostok. Kim Jong Un is not likely to be in attendance.
China's Belt and Road Initiative is a development strategy that includes infrastructure development and investments in countries around the world.