US Abandons Waldorf-Astoria UN Tradition After Chinese-Owned Company Buys Hotel

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The State Department is bailing out on a decades-long tradition of putting up US diplomats at The Waldorf-Astoria only months after it was sold to a Chinese company.

Every US president since Herbert Hoover has hung his hat at The Waldorf when visiting New York, and President Obama stayed there in September when he was in town for the UN General Assembly.

But US officials began raising concerns after Hilton Worldwide announced in October 2014 that it was selling the historic building to the Chinese Anbang Insurance Group for $1.95 billion.

US officials this month blamed hackers working for China for an intrusion that targeted the US Office of Personnel Management and compromised the personal information of 4 million current and former federal workers.

Under the sale agreement, Hilton gets to run the hotel for 100 years, but the deal also calls for a major renovation — which led to heightened concern the Chinese might set up a bugging system.

The hundreds of US diplomats and administration officials visiting for the next General Assembly meeting this fall will instead stay at Madison Avenue’s New York Palace, which was bought recently by the Lotte Group of South Korea.

Obama will also likely make the shift when he visits the Big Apple.

Officials didn’t explain the switch, but noted The Waldorf is now under Chinese control.

The White House and State Department didn’t comment.

The State Department routinely warns Americans and US officials visiting China to be on guard for eavesdroppers.

“Hotel rooms (including meeting rooms), offices, cars, taxis, telephones, Internet usage and fax machines may be monitored onsite or remotely, and personal possessions in hotel rooms, including computers, may be searched without your consent or knowledge,” according to the agency’s travel guidance.

“The Chinese are very tricky,” a law-enforcement source told The Post last year when The Waldorf was being sold to Anbang.

“They are involved in snooping for proprietary reasons to gather intelligence on us”

The status of the residence for the US ambassador to the UN, who has stayed in an apartment on the 42nd floor of the Waldorf for 50 years, was unclear.

The lease on the space expires at the end of the year.


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