Kim Jong-il set to meet Hu Jintao

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's secrecy-shrouded tour of China came to the capital yesterday for a likely summit with President Hu Jintao, as the North appeals for food aid and Beijing presses its communist ally to reform its ailing economy.

China is North Korea's most vital diplomatic and economic supporter and is desperate to prevent a collapse of Mr Kim's isolated regime, which is again struggling to feed its people following a bitter winter.

The trip comes as a US delegation visits North Korea to assess its food needs.