North Korea has quietly unveiled renovations around its capital's biggest landmark - a futuristic, pyramid-shaped 105-story hotel that remains the world's tallest unoccupied building 30 years after construction began.

Walls set up to keep people out of a construction area around the gargantuan Ryugyong Hotel - nicknamed the 'Hotel of Doom' - were pulled down late last week as the North marked the anniversary of the Korean War armistice.

The removal revealed two broad new walkways leading to the 3000-room hotel and a big red propaganda sign declaring that North Korea is a leading rocket power.

It remains to be seen if the current work on the Ryugyong is intended to be a step toward actually finishing the long-stalled project or, more likely, an effort to make better use of the land around it.

Advertisement

Rumours began to swirl late last year that the monstrous hotel was about to get its first guests since windows and a telecomms mast were added to the building five years ago.

In video obtained by US-based news site NK News, lights were spotted in December on two different floors, suggesting a "stable electricity connection existed to the very highest point of the building".

Around the same time, Egyptian development company Orascom reportedly flew executives into Pyongyang to discuss the future of the hotel.

In this photo, taken on July 28, people walk past the hotel on two new walkways leading to the building and a big red propaganda sign declaring North Korea a leading rocket power. Photo/AP
In this photo, taken on July 28, people walk past the hotel on two new walkways leading to the building and a big red propaganda sign declaring North Korea a leading rocket power. Photo/AP

Orascom is the majority shareholder in North Korea's Koryolink phone network and added windows to the building in 2008 under a $400 million telecommunications deal.

The building itself cost a staggering $595 million to construct but has been plagued by construction problems - some of them dubbed "irrepairable" - including cooked lift shafts and dodgy concrete. Esquire lampooned it as "the worst building in the history of mankind".

"With Pyongyang's official population said to range between 2.5 million and 3.8 million (official numbers are not made available by the North Korean government), the Ryugyong Hotel ... is a failure on an enormous scale," the magazine scoffed.

A visitor stands on the ground floor of the unfinished hotel in 2012. Photo/AP
A visitor stands on the ground floor of the unfinished hotel in 2012. Photo/AP

Construction started in 1987 under then-leader Kim Il-sung in a bid to lure more tourists to his country, but was stopped in 1992 following the collapse of the Soviet Union and funding into North Korea but work began again the following decade.

When the building might be finished - or opened to paying guests - is anyone's guess, though the latest renovations might suggest it is inching closer.

Meanwhile, in an escalation of tensions, the US flew two supersonic bombers over the Korean Peninsula on Sunday in a show of force against North Korea following the country's latest intercontinental ballistic missile test.

The US also said it conducted a successful test of a missile defense system located in Alaska.

The building is among the tallest in the world but is thought to be completely unoccupied. Photo/AP
The building is among the tallest in the world but is thought to be completely unoccupied. Photo/AP

The B-1 bombers were escorted by South Korean fighter jets as they performed a low-pass over an air base near the South Korean capital of Seoul before returning to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, the US Pacific Air Forces said in a statement.

It said the mission was a response to North Korea's two ICBM tests this month. Analysts say flight data from the North's second test, conducted Friday night, showed that a broader part of the mainland United States, including Los Angeles and Chicago, is now in range of Pyongyang's weapons.