North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s favorite band cancelled its China tour and boarded a plane to return to Pyangyang Saturday. The all-female band was reportedly in China for a three-concert tour in what was viewed as a visit to cultivate ties between the countries.
The Moranbong Band -- a pop sensation in North Korea -- was escorted to Beijing’s airport in North Korean embassy vehicles Saturday afternoon. The band departed aboard a North Korean Air Koryo jet shortly after 4 p.m. (3 a.m. EST).
The performance "cannot be staged as scheduled due to communication issues at the working level," the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing a news release from unnamed "relevant departments."
A staff member at the National Theatre, where the band was to give its first performances, reportedly said the concerts had been cancelled but did not give a reason. An accompanying North Korean musical troupe, the State Merited Chorus, also cancelled its performances.
The Moranbong Band, which consists of about 20 musicians said to be handpicked by Kim Jong, plays a mixture of Western and traditional Korean tunes. The band has been known to perform the theme from the film Rocky alongside patriot songs praising North Korea's communist rulers.
There was no hint of trouble when they practiced in Beijing's National Centre for Performing Arts on Friday, according to BBC.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman reportedly had confirmed that the performances were aimed at improving ties between China and North Korea.
Neither China nor North Korea has given a public statement for the abrupt end of the tour.