Pompeo Brings “Rocket Man” CD for Kim Jong Un

Ben Cho, July 6, 2018, 8:19 a.m.


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo left for North Korea on Thursday for denuclearization talks and brought two gifts for leader Kim Jong-un. One is a letter from U.S. President Donald Trump and the other an Elton John CD with his song "Rocket Man." Sources in Washington said the gifts reflect Trump's expectations that Kim will follow through on the pledges in an agreement the two signed at their summit.

One diplomatic source in Washington said, "The 'Rocket Man' CD was the subject of discussion during Trump's lunch with Kim. Kim mentioned that Trump referred to him as 'rocket man' when tensions ran high last year" after a series of nuclear tests and missile launches by the North. "Trump then asked Kim if he knew the song and Kim said no."

Trump remembered the conversation and told Pompeo to take a CD with the song for Kim. He reportedly wrote a message on it and signed it.

Pompeo arrives in Pyongyang on Friday for a two-day visit. This is his third trip to North Korea. He is accompanied by Sung Kim, the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines and seasoned nuclear negotiator, Allison Hooker, a National Security Council adviser, Randall Schriver, an assistant secretary of defense for Asia Pacific security affairs, and Andrew Kim, the head of the CIA's Korea Mission Center. Six reporters are also on the plane.

Trump softened his approach to denuclearization since the summit. Reuters on Wednesday said Trump appears to have "shelved an 'all or nothing' approach to North Korean denuclearization. The U.S. State Department furtively shifted its insistence on a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID) to a finally, fully-verified denuclearization (FFVD) after the North bristled against the former approach.

Pompeo is expected to discuss the return of the remains of U.S. soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War. Although the North agreed to return their remains, details need to be ironed out, and North Korea has not yet taken delivery of some 100 coffins that are waiting at the border.

The two sides will also discuss the timing of the North's dismantlement of the Tongchang-ri missile engine test site and whether to allow U.S. monitors to observe the process.

But the key is whether Pompeo can get Kim to act on his vague denuclearization pledge, agreeing to dismantle a specified amount of nuclear warheads by a given date.

U.S. officials remain skeptical whether Pompeo's visit will produce palpable results. North Korea experts in Washington are unconvinced of the North's sincerity, and U.S. intelligence reports leaked last week suggest that North Korea is hiding nuclear facilities and suggest it has no real intention of giving up its nuclear arsenal.

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