The Swiss luxury hotel chain Kempinski said yesterday that it was dropping plans to open a huge pyramid-shaped hotel that has stood half-built for decades in North Korea amid escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula. “Kempinski Hotels confirms that KEY International, its joint-venture partner in China with Beijing Tourism Group (BTG), had first discussions to run a hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea,” Brigitte Hohl Taylor, a spokeswoman, told AFP in an email. “However no agreement has been signed since market entry is not possible,” she said, adding in a phone conversation that the discussions had been halted.

In November, the Geneva-based luxury hotel chain said it hoped to open the 105-storey Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang — a monolithic concrete shell dubbed the “Hotel of Doom” by international media that has been repeatedly delayed — in July or August this year. But on Sunday, the South China Morning Post reported that the Swiss company had decided to ditch the project amid the increasingly bellicose rhetoric from the North Korean regime.

The Korean peninsula has been locked in a cycle of escalating military tensions since the North’s third nuclear test in February, which drew toughened UN sanctions. Former North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, who died in December 2011, reportedly ordered construction of the Ryugyong hotel in 1987, initially with skills and capital from a French company. In 2008 the project, which has stood as a symbol of the economic problems plaguing the impoverished country, was named the “Worst Building in the History of Mankind” by US men’s lifestyle magazine Esquire.

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