Former President Trump asked Kim Jong Un if he knew who Elton John was while seeking to explain his “Little Rocket Man” nickname for the North Korean leader, according to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s new book.
Kim told Trump that he was unfamiliar with the British singer during the exchange at a June 2018 summit in Singapore, Pompeo said in his new memoir, “Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love,” per Insider.
The former president then reportedly explained to Kim that the nickname was derived from a 1972 hit from John called “Rocket Man.”
“Trump said it was a great song, and he intended the reference as a compliment,” Pompeo said, according to Insider.
“‘Rocket man,’ OK. ‘Little,’ not OK,” Kim reportedly responded, laughing.
Trump first referred to Kim as “Rocket Man” in a 2017 tweet, in an apparent reference to the North Korean leader’s frequent missile tests. The former president repeated the nickname in his first address to the United Nations just days later.
“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said. “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
Trump and Kim frequently traded barbs throughout the former’s presidency, leading to increased concerns about a potential conflict between the two countries.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump said in one particularly provocative statement. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
In a separate excerpt from his new memoir, Pompeo recalled that Kim opened a secret meeting in 2018 by joking about assassination.
“Mr. Director,” Kim said to Pompeo, who was CIA director at the time, according to Fox News. “I didn’t think you’d show up. I know you’ve been trying to kill me.”
“My team and I had prepared for this moment, but ‘a joke about assassination’ was not on the list of ‘things he may say when he greets you,’” Pompeo reportedly wrote.
Pompeo’s book release comes as the former secretary of state mulls a potential 2024 run. He said last month that he intends to make an announcement on the subject this spring.