Kim Kye-gwan, the North's veteran nuclear negotiator and first vice foreign minister, began a "strategic dialogue" with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui.
China has expressed frustration against its wayward ally North Korea, supporting tightened U.N. sanctions to punish the North for conducting its third nuclear test in February.
The Beijing meeting between Kim and Zhang came after the North's proposal of talks with the U.S. was met with a cool response from Washington and Seoul, which called for Pyongyang to demonstrate its sincerity for talks through actions, not words.
After months of provocations, including the February nuclear test and bellicose threats against South Korea and the U.S., North Korea has appeared to shift to dialogue in recent weeks. Pyongyang had proposed talks with Seoul, but the proposed inter-Korean dialogue collapsed last week due to a difference over the seniority level of chief representatives.
On Sunday, North Korea issued a surprise overture of talks to the U.S. but insisted that there should be no preconditions if such a dialogue takes place -- a condition Washington has said it would never accept.
In Washington on Wednesday (Washington time), chief nuclear negotiators from South Korea, the U.S. and Japan will hold a trilateral meeting to coordinate their joint approach toward North Korea, the U.S. State Department said.
The six-party talks aimed at persuading the North to give up its nuclear ambitions have been stalled since late 2008. The multilateral forum involved the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.
South Korea and the U.S. have stressed that North Korea must comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions and abide by international obligations for the resumption of the six-party talks.