Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi has been greeted by the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, at the start of a four-day visit to North Korea.
China has said it hopes for progress in nuclear talks with North Korea
Correspondents say talks are likely to focus on Pyongyang's nuclear programme.
North Korea agreed at six-party talks in Beijing last month to abandon the programme in return for economic and security guarantees.
But soon after, it said it would not scrap its nuclear deterrent until it was given a civilian nuclear reactor.
Both Japan and the US have rejected Pyongyang's demand for a reactor.
The visit by the high-ranking Chinese delegation is being seen as an attempt to push for further nuclear discussions, correspondents say.
Announcing the trip last month, China's foreign ministry said Beijing would like to see more progress in the six-party talks. The next round of negotiations is due in November.
Oct 2002: US says North Korea is enriching uranium in violation of agreements
Dec 2002: North Korea removes UN seals from Yongbyon nuclear reactor, expels inspectors
Feb 2003: IAEA refers North Korea to UN Security Council
Aug 2003: First round of six-nation talks begins in Beijing
Feb 2005: Pyongyang says it has built nuclear weapons for self-defence
Sep 2005: N Korea agrees to give up nuclear goals
China's chief nuclear negotiator, Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, is among the Chinese visitors.
No details of Saturday's discussions in Pyongyang have been given, but the North Korean leader received a personal message from the Chinese President Hu Jintao.
The Chinese delegation is expected to take part in celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the North's ruling Workers' Party on Monday.
The nuclear dispute with Pyongyang began in late 2002, when the US accused North Korea of having a uranium-based nuclear arms programme, in violation of international agreements.
Since then four rounds of nuclear talks - between Russia, China, Japan, the US, South and North Korea - have failed to end the dispute.