Leader Kim Jong-un is seeking a state visit to China in his latest move to push to lift the isolated state out of decades of poverty.
It is not clear whether China will be prepared to host him, as requested, in September when Beijing will be preoccupied with its own leadership change. The leadership may have doubts about the North Korean leader, who earlier this year defied his giant neighbour by conducting a long-range rocket test.
A source with ties to Pyongyang and Beijing said that Kim's uncle, Jang Song-thaek, had asked for the visit during a trip to Beijing last week. China's foreign ministry declined to comment on the proposed visit, which would be Mr Kim's first abroad since he took office.