Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived on Thursday on his very first state visit to North Korea, reportedly welcoming a hero who included a 21-round salute and a cheering crowd of thousands.
He arrived by plane for the two-day summit with Kim at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang, China's Xinhua News Agency reported.
Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju personally greeted Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan on the tarmac, Xinhua said.
But the fact that Xi flew to North Korea shows a difference between the two leaders, which some say has embarrassed Kim in the past.
Although Kim flies inland by plane – with a 40- Soviet-born Ilyushin Il-62 almost always takes a train for his trips abroad, even if he extends his journey by several days.
The map below shows a 2000-mile journey he took by train from Pyongyang to Hanoi earlier this year to reach his second summit with US President Donald Trump.
Kim traveled from Singapore to Singapore for his first meeting with Trump last June, at least as a guide.
For this purpose, he borrowed a Boeing 747 Air China, which is majority owned by the Chinese government. He had to borrow a plane because his own was considered unsafe for the 2,900-mile journey.
His use of a Chinese aircraft for his personal meeting with Trump, in which China did not attend, invited comments that he was overly dependent on Beijing.
Kim did not appreciate these comments, The New York Times reports.
When he embarked on his next major train journey, the Times quoted Cheng Xiaohe, a North Korea expert at Renmin University in Beijing, as quoting on this point.
Cheng said, "He does not want to show the world how much he relies on China by waving his hand in front of the Chinese national flag on a Chinese plane, as he did at the Singapore airport."
"Traveling by train is a forced choice."
Read more : Inside the bulletproof passenger train of Kim Jong Un are white conference rooms and a private ramp with a red carpet.
A Hero welcomes Xi
Xi's trip to North Korea is the first of a Chinese leader for 14 years, and he was received like a hero.
According to Xinhua, North Korea held a "grand welcome ceremony" for Xi at the airport, which included a salute of 21 guns, the playing of the national anthems of both countries, and an army march past.
Nearly 10,000 people arrived at the airport, waving flowers and singing slogans to welcome the Chinese delegation, Xinhua said.
Xi then left the airport with a huge motorcade that included 21 motorcycles. Arriving in downtown Pyongyang, the Chinese leader drove an open car next to Kim to a central square.
BBC Monitoring has released photos of Xi's greeting:
The state visit is coming as relations between the two countries and the US become increasingly angry.
Beijing and Washington are involved in a protracted trade war in which both sides have imposed hundreds of billions of dollars in exports on each other, and the Trump government is trying to limit the influence of Chinese technology around the world.
North Korea's relations with the US have also deteriorated since Kim and Trump's February summit in Vietnam ended unopposed.
Last month, Pyongyang conducted new missile tests, which US National Security Advisor John Bolton claimed violated UN Security Council resolutions.
On Wednesday, the state media of both countries published an essay written by Xi himself, praising the friendship between the two countries and praising North Korea for being in moving the "right direction" by trying to solve political problems on the Korean peninsula.
According to Xinhua, Xi wrote: "I will pay the DPRK a state visit, with the good wish to continue our friendship and to write a new chapter in our relationship."
DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the official name for North Korea.
Read more: Chinese President Xi Jinping praises North Korea for its historic two-day trip to Pyongyang – the first for a Chinese leader in 14 years.
Kim has tried to mitigate international sanctions imposed on his regime, but they have remained in place. China is committed to these sanctions, although it is North Korea's largest trading partner.