North Korean attempts to deploy ‘Spice Girl diplomacy’ to repair strained relations with China ended in apparent failure last night after an all-girl band formed by leader Kim Jong-un cancelled a highly-anticipated show in Beijing and headed home.
The first ever foreign performance by the Moranbong band had been billed a “friendship show” by official North Korean media, and pictures of the women saluting proudly as they left Pyongyang for Beijing earlier this week featured widely in both countries.
Members of North Korea's Moranbong band talking outside the hotel they are staying at in Beijing Photo: Getty
But the latest images which emerged on the Chinese Internet on Saturday showed them marching through a terminal at Beijing Airport in their long coats and tall fur hats as a throng of bystanders took pictures on their smartphones.
There were conflicting reports on how many performances Moranbong were to give in Beijing, and China’s National Centre for the Performing Arts told The Telegraph earlier this week that no tickets were available, suggesting the shows were invite-only.
Members from North Korea's Moranbong band walk out of their hotel in Beijing Photo: STR/AFP/Getty
The same venue posted an announcement on its website Saturday saying that the shows had been cancelled, but without explanation.
One Chinese journalist speculated that the group had refused to perform after Chinese officials requested a change in lyrics, but no official explanation has been given.
China and North Korea are traditional allies and have been described as close "as lips and teeth” in the past.
Members of the North Korean female music group Moranbong Band arrive at a hotel in Beijing, China Photo: Getty
However, the North’s increasingly aggressive posturing has concerned Beijing and observers have pointed to a cooling of relations since the North tested its first atomic weapon in 2006.
The Moranbong band, who are considered style pioneers in the home country with their fashionable haircuts and short skirts, were reportedly created by Mr Kim after he inherited the leadership.
They combine in their performances propaganda songs such as The Silk Weaving Girl of Nyongbyon and Fluttering Red Flag with a sprinkle of Western hits, such as the theme music from the Sylvester Stallone blockbuster Rocky.