A powerful North Korean official and uncle of leader Kim Jong-Un has returned home, state media said, after high-level talks in Beijing which are seen as a precursor to a visit by Pyongyang's young ruler.
Jang Song-Thaek arrived from Beijing Saturday, the official KCNA news agency said, a day after he met China's President Hu Jintao on a trip focused on beefing up economic ties.
The six-day trip by Jang, head of the Central Committee of the North's ruling communist party, was the highest-level diplomatic exchange since the young leader took over from his late father Kim Jong-Il in December.
China is the sole major ally and economic lifeline for the impoverished but nuclear-armed North.
Beijing has provided food and fuel aid to the North, which is beset by chronic shortages, a moribund economy and international sanctions, and has urged Pyongyang to launch economic reforms.
The two nations signed agreements aimed at pushing forward the development of special North Korean economic zones near the Chinese border, the commerce ministry in Beijing said earlier.
China's Hu, during the talks with Jang, vowed to boost ties between the neighbours.
"We hope that both sides will... (push) forward the cooperation and development of the two economic zones and other major projects," a Chinese foreign ministry statement quoted Hu as saying during the talks Friday.
Jang also held talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who addressed the importance of strengthening economic relations, the agency said.
The late Kim Jong-Il travelled to China four times in less than two years at the end of his life -- underscoring the importance of the relationship between the two countries.
Jang -- the husband of Kim Jong-Il's sister Kim Kyong-Hui -- is seen as a key figure in the North's power elite who supports the young and inexperienced Kim Jong-Un, believed to be in his late 20s.