Diplomatic discord: Kim Jong Un's pop band returns home

An all-female singing group formed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had to cancel its concerts in China and return home after a perceived slight by the Chinese, according to media reports.

The Moranbong Band, a North Korean pop band made up of young women who were reportedly hand-picked by the North Korean dictator, had been due to perform at Beijing's National Centre for the Performing Arts on Sunday for several nights but the shows were canceled.

China's official Xinhua news agency said the performance could not be staged as scheduled due to "communication issues at the working level."

Members of the North Korean female music group Moranbong Band arrive at a hotel after concert rehearsal on December 11, 2015 in Beijing, China.
ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
Members of the North Korean female music group Moranbong Band arrive at a hotel after concert rehearsal on December 11, 2015 in Beijing, China.

The Moranbong Band was formed in 2012 and the all-female group plays their own instruments. The band tends to perform songs in praise of the North Korean regime and wears military-style dress, in fact, the members hold high ranks in the military and are also seen as a part of a military orchestra.

The Beijing performance was to be its first overseas concert.

However, there is speculation that the band, which is very popular in North Korea (although admittedly, there is not much choice given the authoritarian regime's strict control) had been called back home after Kim Jong Un heard that Chinese President Xi Jinping would not be attending the concert.

On Sunday, South Korea's Yonhap news agency cited an unnamed source quoting an unidentified Chinese government official as saying the North had initially requested an audience that included Xi or Premier Li Keqiang. China agreed instead to send a politburo member, but then decided to send lower-ranking officials, a decision that rankled North Korea's leader.

Other media reports say stories of a rumored past relationship between the married Kim and a member of the band had circulated on Chinese social media and could have been a reason for their departure. North Korea takes exception to any mockery of its leader.

China and North Korea have traditionally had good relations on an economic and diplomatic level. There are signs of tensions, however, with China apparently frustrated by North Korea's refusal to return to talks on getting rid of any nuclear weapons. In fact, North Korea has done the opposite, claiming earlier in December that it possesses an atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb.

- By CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt. Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.