SEOUL — North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un met with a senior Chinese official late Thursday to discuss closer ties with its main ally Beijing, state media said.
Kim received a Chinese delegation led by Wang Jiarui, head of the Communist Party's international department, in Pyongyang, China's Xinhua agency and the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
The young leader, who took power after the death of his father Kim Jong-Il in December, asked Wang to convey his regards to Chinese President Hu Jintao.
The North aims to work with Beijing to bring "their friendship, established and nurtured by the older generations of leaders on both sides, to a higher level", Kim was reported as saying by Xinhua.
It was the North's "unswerving will" to carry on a friendship between the countries nurtured under his father's reign and to "deepen" their alliance, said Kim, according to the Chinese news agency.
Wang in return said Beijing was "ready to work jointly with the DPRK side to maintain high-level contacts, strengthen party-to-party exchanges, and boost practical cooperation".
China, Pyongyang's sole major ally and biggest trade partner, is actively exploring investment opportunities in North Korea.
The North's dependence on Beijing has grown as international sanctions over its missile and nuclear programmes have restricted access to international credit.
In his final years, Kim Jong-Il -- diminished by a stroke in August 2008 -- regularly visited China, the biggest provider of humanitarian aid to the impoverished country.
He travelled to the Asian giant four times in just over a year, until his last visit in the summer of 2011.
Observers have expected the younger Kim, who last month reshuffled the country's powerful military to tighten his grip on the communist state, to make his first foreign visit as leader to China.
In the meeting Thursday, Xinhua reported Kim as saying his government's domestic aim was "developing the economy and improving the people's livelihoods to let the Korean people lead a happy and civilized life".
The meeting did not appear to touch on humanitarian aid to respond to recent deadly storms suffered in the North, which have caused major crop damage.
Pyongyang reported 31 people killed by landslides and lightning during storms on Sunday and Monday, in addition to 88 earlier reported dead in floods and storms last month.
The flooding represents a challenge for Kim, leading a nation that has grappled with severe food shortages since a famine in the 1990s killed hundreds of thousands.
UN agencies estimated last autumn that three million people would need food aid this year even before current problems.