China is sending a leading member of the Communist Party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee to Pyongyang this month for commemorations of the founding of North Korea's ruling party.

The announcement comes amid a long dry spell in exchanges between the sides, whose traditional close relations have been strained by North Korean missile launches and nuclear tests.

A party announcement Sunday said that Liu Yunshan, ranked fifth in the party hierarchy, would travel to the North on Friday. The announcement said that along with attending events marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Worker's Party of Korea, Liu would pay a "friendly visit" to the North.

Liu's visit will be closely scrutinized for any interactions with North Korea's reclusive young leader Kim Jong Un.