BEIJING, A top Chinese official made a surprise visit to North Korea's embassy in Beijing on Thursday to attend a reception commemorating the upcoming 70th anniversary of the founding of the North's government.

Wang Yang, a member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee and chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, is the highest Chinese official ever to attend the North's national day reception.

Wang is considered No. 4 in China's power hierarchy.

His attendance contrasts sharply to last year when an assistant foreign minister attended. It shows that relations between Beijing and Pyongyang have warmed rapidly this year since the North's leader launched a charm offensive and reached out to South Korea and the United States.

China also plans to send Li Zhanshu, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China, to Pyongyang later this week to attend Sunday's ceremony marking the founding anniversary.

Source: Yonhap News Agency