South Korea's Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong is on his way to China for his first trip abroad since assuming the post in February.
Chung is due to meet China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi in the southern city of Xiamen on Saturday.
Before departing Seoul on Friday, Chung told reporters that China needs to play a constructive role in North Korean issues.
Pyongyang staged missile launches in March, rebuffing overtures from South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Chung is expected to seek China's cooperation to achieve the North's denuclearization.
South Korean conservative daily JoongAng Ilbo said it is rare for the country's foreign minister to visit China first, rather than the United States, after taking office.
The paper called the move "risky tight-rope diplomacy," as the visit overlaps with three-way national security talks in the US that involve Japan.
It also pointed out US-China frictions are deepening and said Chung's visit could have repercussions on South Korea's relationship with the United States.