North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has sent his all-female pop propaganda band to China in an apparent effort to boost relations with his traditional ally.
The Moranbong Band, which was reputedly handpicked by Mr Kim, is to give "friendship performances" along with the State Merited Chorus - an army orchestra - the official news agency KCNA reports. Clad in military-style uniforms, the musicians were seen off at Pyongyang station by senior party officials and the Chinese ambassador, underlining the importance of the group's first tour abroad.
It's seen as the latest sign that the two countries' longstanding alliance is on the mend again, after being strained by North Korea's third nuclear test in 2013. The band will appear at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing from 12 to 14 December, according to China's Xinhua agency.
Last in the international news in September, when rumours of their disappearance and possible fall from grace turned out to be greatly exaggerated, Moranbong were formed at Kim Jong-un's order in 2012 out of an ensemble favoured by his deceased father, Kim Jong-il.
They are known - at least by the authoritarian state's staid standards - for their energetic, almost Western-style performances. Songs include typical North Korea propaganda items such as We Think of the Marshall (Mr Kim) Day and Night and My Country is the Best!, but also more surprising Western-inspired numbers, including the Theme from Rocky.
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