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North Koreans complain about blocked ski lift deal

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (in black) reportedly wants the Masik ski resort finished by the end of the year Keystone

North Korea has objected to a ban on imports of equipment for a ski resort allegedly reserved for the ruling elite, seemingly pointing the finger of blame at Switzerland which recently blocked a deal for material after applying United Nations sanctions.

Under the leadership of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who studied in the Swiss capital Bern and is believed to have enjoyed skiing in the Alps, the reclusive North has carried out work on the “Masik Pass” ski project since last year, in rivalry with South Korea which is hosting 2018 Winter Olympics.

Last week, media reports revealed that Switzerland halted the sale to the North of equipment for a ski resort and luxury sporting goods including golf, horseback riding and water sports under the sanctions.

North Korea reportedly asked several companies to provide chair lifts and cable cars worth CHF7 million ($7.24 million) for its Masik resort, which should also include 110 kilometres of ski runs, a hotel and a heliport.

North Korea’s Skiers Association said in a statement carried by KCNA news agency Saturday that countries should not prohibit Pyongyang from buying equipment which does not produce any rocket or nuclear weapon.

“Some countries, pressurized by the US high-handed practices, are blocking the DPRK from importing even equipment to be installed in mass sports facilities such as the ski resort,” an association spokesman said. North Korea’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Although the statement did not elaborate on which country blocked the import, it called such a move unjustifiable and a violation of the UN Charter that states sanctions should not affect people in relevant countries.

The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) confirmed earlier in the week that St Gallen-based Bartholet Maschinenbau was not allowed to sell the chair lifts and cable cars to Pyongyang.

A Seco spokeswoman told that the cabinet ruled that it was not opportune for Swiss firms to be involved in such projects.

Luxury goods are included in UN sanctions against North Korea that Switzerland applies.

The Swiss authorities currently forbid exports of luxury goods such as caviar, cigars, silver cutlery, handmade carpets, purebred horses, truffles, billiard equipment and speciality bakery items including croissants. The list also includes “infrastructure installations and equipment for luxury sport facilities,” added July 3.

Austria’s Doppelmyar and France’s Pomgalski had turned down the order for “political reasons” according to a report in Geneva’s Le Temps newspaper on Monday.

Earlier this year, North Korea threatened nuclear and missile strikes against the United States and South Korea at the height of tensions after it was hit with UN sanctions for its February nuclear test.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR