Senior Chinese official to visit North Korea with art troupe

The report said that a large-scale art group will make the first visit to the North after Kim and Xi recently agreed to strengthen cultural exchanges.

The chairman's seat (center), presumably for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, is vacant at a Supreme People's Assembly session in Pyongyang on Wednesday, in this photo released by the [North] Korean Central News Agency on Thursday.

Geng said Song had been invited by the International Department of North Korea's ruling Worker's Party.

It added that the leader mentioned his upcoming summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, which is to be held on April 27 in the truce village of Panmunjom in the heavily fortified border that divides the rival nations.

The organizer of a tour to the festival previously told NK News that around 500 performers from around the world would be in attendance.

Song visited Pyongyang in November, becoming the last high-level Chinese official to do so.

The state media, however, did not put Kim on the list of the meeting's attendees, among which were Kim Yong-nam, President of the SPA Presidium, and Choe Ryong-hae, the number-two leader of Pyongyang.

Song was reported to have greeted Kim at the train station, participated in the DPRK-China summit, and attended the subsequent banquet hosted by Xi, according to KCNA reports. Members of the ruling party's political bureau on Monday approved a draft budget to be submitted to the assembly. He gave no details about any officials Song would meet.

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

Ri reportedly expressed his hope "that the DPRK will maintain close strategic communication with China on relevant issues of the Korean Peninsula", the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) reported. "It seems that the North-China relations are fast normalizing", said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.

North Korea's rubber-stamp parliament convened on Wednesday, weeks ahead of summits with South Korea and the U.S.

"Second, it is showing the USA that China will not necessarily maintain the united front with the US on North Korean issues", he continued.

  • Rogelio Becker