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Members of North Korea's Moranbong band sing and dance during a joint performance with the State Merited Chorus in Pyongyang in October. Photo: AP

New | China still keen on North Korea exchanges despite no-show by Kim Jong-un’s hand-picked Moranbong girl band

North Korea

China wants to keep pushing ahead with cultural exchanges with North Korea, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday, after an all-female North Korean pop group formed by leader Kim Jong Un abruptly cancelled a Beijing concert and went home.

The Moranbong Band was visiting China along with North Korea’s State Merited Chorus and was to perform at Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts last Saturday.

READ MORE: Beijing no-show by N Korean leader’s hand-picked pop band points to diplomatic rift with China: analysts

China’s official Xinhua news agency said the performance could not be staged because of “communication issues at the working level”.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing he had nothing to add to the Xinhua report.

“China pays great attention to cultural exchanges with North Korea and is willing along with North Korea to keeping pushing cooperation forward on all levels, including cultural exchanges,” Hong said, without elaborating.

Speculation has swirled about the reason for the cancellation.

The Global Times, an influential Chinese tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, in an editorial on Monday called what happened a “glitch” that would not affect China’s ties with North Korea, although he admitted the cancellation was “a bit odd”.

“Given the strategic relationship between the two, the atmosphere surrounding the show might have a short-term impact, but will not affect the basis of their strategic relations,” the tabloid said, without offering its own explanation for the cancellation.

READ MORE: Kim Jong-un’s favourite group the Moranbong Band is back

The band is Kim’s pet project as he tries to put his personal stamp on North Korean arts, and the short haircuts of the group’s young women members are trend-setting in the capital, Pyongyang.

The ensemble, whose members were reportedly handpicked by Kim, was formed in 2012, and the China show was to be their first overseas. Chinese media said they were to give three Beijing concerts.

There has been no word from North Korea on the band’s departure. Their visit was seen as an indication of improving relations between China and its isolated neighbour.

READ MORE: Moranbong style: North Korea’s first girl band may be a sign of change

China – North Korea’s main economic and diplomatic backer – was infuriated in 2013 when Kim ordered the country’s third nuclear test.

Several subsequent rounds of sabre rattling by North Korea towards South Korea and the United States have also tested China’s patience.