North Korea's best-known girl band is expected to go on a one-month concert tour in China later this year, sources said Thursday, in a sign of strengthening relations between Pyongyang and Beijing.
Moranbong Band plans to start the tour in Beijing in December at the invitation of a Chinese international culture exchange center, which will be followed by concerts in other major Chinese cities such as Shanghai, Shenzhen and Changsha, according to the sources.
It will be the first time that the band, led by Hyun Song-wol, a close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, has held a concert in China since 2015, when it called off a planned performance at the last minute after China took issue with its performance featuring the North's nuclear and missile development.
"We know that Moranbong Band is planning the performance tour as part of events to celebrate the 70th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between North Korea and China," a source said.
Observers say that the upcoming tour appears to be aimed at playing up the friendly relations between Pyongyang and Beijing, which have been solidified in recent years after a yearslong hiatus over the former's nuclear ambitions. They also marked the 70th anniversary of building diplomatic ties earlier this month.
Pyongyang has been trying to bolster its ties with Beijing in an apparent bid to strengthen its diplomatic hand in denuclearization negotiations with Washington.
North Korean leader Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping have held five summits since last year. Xi visited Pyongyang in June, the first trip by a Chinese head of state to North Korea in 14 years.
In a sign of improved ties, a North Korean art troupe led by Ri Su-yong, vice chairman of the Central Committee of the North's ruling Workers' Party, held performances in Beijing, one of them attended by Xi.
The performances came right after leader Kim made a trip to Beijing for a summit with the Chinese president.
Some cautiously raised the possibility that Kim and Xi could meet again before and after the planned performance.
Speculation arose that Kim could travel to China for a summit in time for the 70th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations, but his trip did not materialize. (Yonhap)