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South Korean Newspaper: Cancellation of North Korean Performance Could Impact Relations with China

The South Korean daily newspaper JoongAng Ilbo was among the first to report the cancellation of well publicized North Korean performances scheduled for the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing from Dec. 12 to 14. Two North Korean troupes, the Moranbong Band and the State Merited Chorus, were scheduled to perform. However, on December 12 they suddenly cancelled.

Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s paramount leader, selected the members of the Moranbong Band. Its performance was supposed to restore relations between North Korea and China. The unexpected cancellation could negatively impact relations between Beijing and Pyongyang. China’s official Xinhua News Agency cited "communication issues at the working level" as the cause. 

A Chinese official in charge of North Korean issues, who watched the rehearsal, gave JoongAng Ilbo his take on the term "working level." He said the Moranbong Band had numerous missile launching images in its backdrop. The Chinese noticed this on December 11. Since Kim gave a speech last Thursday about his country’s development of a hydrogen bomb, the Chinese believed the backdrop was a problem, and asked that the images be removed. The North Koreans could have refused. JoongAng Ilbo acknowledged in the report that this was an unconfirmed interpretation. 

Another Chinese official told the newspaper, "It was not the Chinese side that cancelled the performances." This could be corroborated in Xinhua‘s report which indicated that China is "ready to continue to work with [North Korea] to promote bilateral exchanges and cooperation in culture and in all other areas." 

Sources: JoongAng Ilbo, December 14, 2015 
Xinhua News Agency, December 12, 2015