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China may not have sent delegation to N. Korean founder's birth anniversary

All Headlines 19:23 April 13, 2016

SEOUL, April 13 (Yonhap) -- China does not appear to have sent a delegation to celebrate North Korean founder Kim Il-sung's birth anniversary, a North Korean state media report suggested Wednesday.

The North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that delegations from Russia, Cuba, Peru, Vietnam and nine other countries performed at venues in Pyongyang as part of the April Spring Friendship Art Festival, an event honoring the late founder's birth anniversary on April 15. But it made no mention of a delegation from China.

China had sent dance troupes and circuses to previous festivals, but this report suggests it may not have done so this year.

"This doesn't seem totally unrelated to the mass defection of North Korean restaurant workers," said Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korean studies professor at Dongguk University in Seoul. "The fact that China didn't send a delegation after having done so every time seems to reflect worsening ties between North Korea and China."

Thirteen North Korean workers at an overseas restaurant defected to South Korea en masse last week amid toughened international sanctions on Pyongyang over its latest nuclear and missile tests.

Seoul has kept silent on where the restaurant staff came from, but Beijing confirmed that the group left the country using valid passports.

sojungpark@yna.co.kr
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