Switzerland says it has blocked a deal to sell top-notch ski lifts to North Korea, in a move that could delay what is seen as leader Kim Jong-un's pet ski resort project.
Swiss company Bartholet Maschinenbau had reportedly all but agreed to sell mechanical chair lifts and cable cars to Pyongyang to help fulfil Kim's vision of a "world class" ski resort, being built as rival South Korea prepares to host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
The Masik ski resort has been heavily promoted by the North's propaganda machine since Kim visited it in June and proclaimed that the facility, with 110 kilometres of multi-level ski runs, a hotel, heliport and cable cars, should be completed by the end of the year.
But Switzerland's State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) said it had blocked the deal, reportedly worth 7 million Swiss francs (HK$58 million), after the Swiss government in early July expanded its sanctions on North Korea.
"This is obviously a prestigious propaganda project for the regime," Seco spokeswoman Marie Avet said.
According to a report in Swiss daily Le Temps yesterday, Austrian and French companies had already turned down the North Korean order "for political reasons".
North Korea has a special link to Switzerland - Kim Jong-un attended secondary school near Bern, without revealing his true identity, and reportedly learned to ski on the slopes in the small Alpine country.