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Officials Raise Spying Concerns After Chinese Company Plans Renovation At Waldorf Astoria

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Waldorf Astoria has been hosting presidents and dignitaries for decades.

But now, the State Department and the White House are checking out of the iconic hotel.

As CBS2's Sonia Rincon reported, a Chinese insurance company called Anbang bought the Waldorf Astoria from the Hilton Corporation last fall.

But this fall, some diplomats and possibly even the President Barack Obama will be staying at the Palace Hotel while in town for the United Nations General Assembly session.

The State Department has made no formal announcement of the change, but CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk called the decision a prudent tit-for-tat.

"Because the Chinese have made so many cyber attacks and eavesdropping against the United States, it's very prudent for the United States to make sure that all these important bilateral meetings with heads of state don't take place where they're going to be transmitted to China," said Falk.

Rep. Peter King said he supports the move.

"This would be a way for us to send a signal to China, that we're not going to keep putting up with what they do," he said.

The sale to Anbang still allows the Hilton Corporation to operate the hotel, but the deal also calls for a massive renovation, which triggered concerns in Washington.

"This is the ideal opportunity, unfortunately, for China to install eavesdropping, bugging devices," said King.

So far, there has been no decision about whether U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power should move from the Waldorf, where she lives with her family, Rincon reported.

"I've been in there. It's a great suite. I think Samantha Power does a good job as U.N. Ambassador, but I would strongly recommend she find another place to live," said King.

Falk has been there too, and last fall asked if the family was concerned about the new ownership, Rincon reported.

"And their answer was, 'Well, what will they listen to? Us feeding our children dinner or them screaming for dessert?' And the reality is that as the cyber attacks from China increased, the real issues related to security and all the receptions that take place there," Falk said.

The lease on Power's suite is up at the end of this year.

A statement from a Waldorf Astoria New York spokesperson said "It is always a privilege to host representatives of the U.S. Department of State and we hope to have the occasion to welcome them back to the Waldorf Astoria New York when the opportunity presents itself."

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