Updated Dec. 12 at 11:12EST: The first overseas performance of North Korea’s Moranbong Band was cancelled just hours before their show in Beijing today, Dec. 12. A member of staff at Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts, where the group was to play, said the show was cancelled for “some unknown reason,” according to Reuters.
The Moranbong Band, whose members were reportedly handpicked by leader Kim Jong Un back in 2012, were expected to perform in Beijing from Dec. 12 to 14, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua. An update on the Centre’s website confirmed (link in Chinese) that the show was cancelled but gave no more information.
These invitation-only “friendship performances” were intended to “contribute to deepening friendship and boosting the cultural and artistic exchanges between the peoples of the two countries,” according to CNN reports of North Korea’s state news agency KCNA.
China is North Korea’s most important ally, both financially and politically. So much trade passes through the Chinese city Dandong that it has been called North Korea’s “lifeline,” according to CNN. However, there has been friction across the border recently, as the North Korean military pursues nuclear weapon goals despite strong disapproval from Beijing.
Although Kim Jong Un may have hoped that the Moranbong Band would help defuse tensions, it’s hard to imagine that a hit single like “Our Dear Leader!” could create many new fans outside North Korea.