NKorea's Kim Jong Un sends all-female band to sing in China



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BEIJING (AP) — An all-female band formed by Kim Jong Un will perform behind closed doors at Beijing's iconic performing arts center Thursday on a visit to cultivate better ties with China.

The Moranbong Band, a group of women who sing and play instruments including violins, electric guitars and keyboards in short dresses and high heels, was set up by the North Korean leader in 2012. Its look is similar to pop bands from the North's hated rival, South Korea, but it has performed on stages in front of a giant screen showing various images of Kim Jong Un and a missile launch.

The band will play alongside another North Korean musical troupe, the State Merited Chorus, at the National Center for Performing Arts for three nights starting Thursday. The performances are not open to the public, according to various people reached at the center who could give no details on who was invited.

North Korea's state news agency, Korean Central News Agency, said the trip was a "friendship visit." It said the Moranbong Band has played an ideological and cultural role in North Korea, "arousing all the service personnel and people."

Relations between China and North Korea have been strained since the accession in 2011 of Kim Jong Un, who seems to have focused on domestic politics to the detriment of relations with its traditional ally, China. The North Korean leader still has not visited Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Wednesday that China would like to continue to developing friendly ties with its neighbor.

"Whether it's North Korea, Japan or any other country, we believe any form of civilian exchange and cooperation will boost understanding and friendship among the people," Hua said.

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The Associated Press

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