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China to send art troupe to North Korea festival

News Desk

Agence France-Presse

Beijing  /  Wed, April 11, 2018  /  06:36 pm
China to send art troupe to North Korea festival

This screen grab taken from North Korea's KCTV on Feb. 8, 2018 shows members of North Korea's military taking part in a parade in Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang. (Agence France -Presse/KCTV)

China will send a Communist Party official with an art troupe to North Korea for a festival celebrating the country's founder, state media said Wednesday, as the neighbours seek to heal battered relations.

The delegation will leave on Friday to attend the April Spring Friendship Art Festival at the invitation of North Korea's Workers' Party, China's official Xinhua news agency said in a brief report.

Song Tao, the head of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee's international department, will lead the mission. 

Song had visited Pyongyang late last year to brief officials about the party's October congress.

The festival is held in Pyongyang as part of the commemorations for the anniversary of the birth of the North's founder Kim Il Sung on April 15, 1912.

Both North Korean and foreign artists take part, and this year's week-long event includes concerts, dance performances and acrobatics.

Read also: North Korea's 'army of beauties' set to invade South

China has sent art troupes to every festival since 1986, except in 2016.

Beijing is North Korea's sole major ally, an alliance dating back to the 1950-1953 Korean War, but relations deteriorated after China backed United Nations sanctions to punish Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons programme.

Both sides have since sought to improve ties, with North Korea's Kim Jong Un meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping last month in Beijing -- the young leader's first known official trip abroad.

Kim's visit was seen as an attempt by both leaders to shore up a key alliance ahead of the North Korean leader's planned summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in this month and US President Donald Trump in the following weeks.

Baik Tae-hyun, a spokesman for South Korea's unification ministry, said Seoul believes the Chinese delegation's trip is "part of the efforts to strengthen friendly cultural exchanges between North Korea and China following their summit".

Seoul, Baik added, "will watch with interest whether it will lead to a performance in China by North Korean artists that was cancelled in December 2015".