WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department will abandon decades of tradition this fall at the annual U.N. General Assembly by setting up shop in a hotel other than New York’s iconic Waldorf-Astoria, which was purchased last year by a Chinese company.
Officials said Wednesday the department would base its U.N. operations at the New York Palace Hotel instead of the famed Waldorf. The officials did not give a reason for the switch, which will affect hundreds of American diplomats and support staff who travel to New York for the General Assembly each September and usually stay and hold meetings on two secured floors at the Waldorf.
However, officials pointed to Hilton Worldwide’s sale of the Waldorf-Astoria to China’s Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group for $1.95 billion last year, a deal that prompted security concerns. Terms of the sale allow Hilton to run the hotel for the next 100 years but also call for “a major renovation” that officials say has raised eyebrows in Washington, where fears of Chinese eavesdropping and cyberespionage run high.
Both the White House and the State Department declined to comment on the hotel choice for the U.N. General Assembly.
At the time of the October 2014 sale, officials said it could have implications for the U.S. government’s longstanding relationship with the hotel. They said decisions about the relationship would be made on cost, Anbang’s plans, the government’s needs and security concerns with an eye on the renovation project.
The State Department routinely warns U.S. diplomats in China about physical and electronic surveillance and tells American citizens in the country to be aware of similar risks, notably in hotels.
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