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North Korean performers feted after China concert, state media says

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korean performers feted after China concert, state media says
A special delegation of North Korean performers held a concert in Beijing on Saturday and Sunday to commemorate 70 years of diplomatic ties, according to state media. Photo by KCNA

Jan. 31 (UPI) -- North Korean performers who held concerts over the weekend in Beijing have returned to Pyongyang, and to a "warm welcome" from top officials, state media reported Thursday.

KCNA said the singers and dancers who performed a combination of traditional and contemporary ballads before Chinese President Xi Jinping and first lady Peng Liyuan on Sunday, then posed together for a commemorative photograph, were celebrated upon their return.

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"Members of the [Korean Workers'] Party's central committee, Comrade Kim Ki Nam, Comrade Kim Yo Jong, Comrade Kwon Hyok Bong, Comrade Ri Chang Gun, Comrade Pak Chun Nam...warmly welcomed the special delegation of the arts," KCNA stated.

Kim Yo Jong is the younger sister of leader Kim Jong Un, and one of the most powerful players in the regime. Kim Ki Nam is allegedly the chief of North Korea propaganda services. His appearance is significant because he was largely absent from public activities from 2017 to 2018, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

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State radio reported the concert marked a "meaningful new year" that marks the 70th anniversary of bilateral ties; the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949.

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"Through the concert, the friendly affection preciously cherished between the people of [North Korea] and China was solidified, and contributed to a new flowering in the developing of China-[North Korea] relations," state media said.

Kim Jong Un has met with Xi four times, and their most recent summit took place in January. China has supported North Korea's call for sanctions relief ahead of fully verifiable denuclearization.

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Beijing and Pyongyang are strengthening ties at a time when the United States is preparing for a second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader.

Trump tweeted Wednesday there is a "decent chance" of denuclearization, contradicting statements from his intelligence chiefs North Korea is unlikely to give up its weapons of mass destruction.

CNN reported Wednesday recent discussions with North Korea "got nowhere," despite statements from the White House following the visit of top official Kim Yong Chol.

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