While North Korea's second launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile dominated headlines late last week, Pyongyang quietly unveiled renovations around the capital's biggest landmark: a futuristic, pyramid-shaped 105-story hotel, the world's tallest unoccupied building. After decades of embarrassing delays and rumors that the building may not even be structurally sound, could this be Kim Jong Un's next pet project? If nothing else, it at least has a new propaganda sign: "Rocket Power Nation." Walls set up to keep people out of a construction area around the gargantuan Ryugyong Hotel were pulled down as the North marked the anniversary of the Korean War armistice, the AP reports. Revealed were two broad new walkways leading to the building and the big red propaganda sign declaring that North Korea is a leading rocket power. That, of course, is Kim's other pet project.
For more than a week leading up to the anniversary, a major holiday in North Korea, "soldier-builders" at the site in central Pyongyang were clearly visible behind the walls. Work on the building began in 1987 but it was little more than a concrete shell for decades. The shiny exterior was finished with funds from an Egyptian company in 2011 and from a distance, the glassy, greenish-blue Ryugyong looks like it's ready for business. But it is believed to be far from complete inside and possibly even structurally unsound. How Kim can afford to pay for the apparent construction boom and his significantly accelerated testing of multimillion-dollar missiles is a mystery, but has led many sanctions advocates to point the finger at China, by far North Korea's biggest trading partner, for not doing enough to turn the economic screws on its neighbor.