About the Author
View more articles by Colin Zwirko
Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
Chinese media on Thursday afternoon named the guesthouse in Pyongyang where Chinese President Xi Jinping will be staying as the “Kumsusan Guesthouse,” a previously unknown name and different than the location used to host other heads of state and VIP guests in the past year.
Xinhua reported in the afternoon that after arriving around noon Xi was driven from the airport through Ryomyong Street to a ceremony at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun before arriving at the guesthouse.
According to recent satellite imagery, a new mansion complex was built entirely since February this year just next to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun – suggesting this may be the location of the Kumsusan Guesthouse.
As of Thursday evening, images of the guesthouse or the location of talks held between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Xi had yet to be released, however.
The complex consists of two large mansions and other buildings surrounding a small pond, on grounds which featured only walkways and a landscaped park until early February this year.
Medium-resolution daily satellite imagery provided by Planet Labs shows that a temporary structure complex began to appear in late October last year in the fields around the park and the Pyongyang Floriculture Institute next door, growing to cover roughly 2.5 square kilometers in two sections by February.
One large mansion with a circular driveway indicative of a guesthouse design was nearly completed by April 21, according to Google Earth high-resolution imagery.
Across the pond, construction on another mansion of similar size was well underway by that time, as well as what appear to be a domed structure and walkways at the pond’s edge and another glass-domed decorative structure at the north end of the grounds.
Planet Labs imagery shows that the temporary structure complexes were completely gone by May 21, with the two mansions, new buildings at the south of the complex, and other structures also appearing complete.
Landscaping, too, appears to have been finished in the same time, indicating the new buildings could have been completed in rapid fashion in anticipation of receiving VIP guests in short order.
Just south of the new guesthouse is an elite-use helicopter airfield and the Paekhwawon Guesthouse, where South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, among others, stayed in their visits to Pyongyang in the last year.
Satellite imagery shows that new buildings are also in the early stages of construction just to the north of Ryomyong Street on the Pyongyang Floriculture Institute’s grounds, with work beginning at the same time as the possible Kumsusan Guesthouse.
President Xi is expected to stay overnight Thursday at his guesthouse before departing for Beijing sometime on Friday.
Featured image: Google Earth