U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media after two days of meetings with Kim Yong Chol, senior North Korean official of the ruling party and former intelligence chief, before boarding his plane at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang, Korea. North, on July 7. 2018, to travel to Japan. (Andrew Harnik / Pool via REUTERS)
Despite widespread rumors to the contrary, State Secretary Mike Pompeo did not hand over North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a CD with Elton John's song "Rocket Man" during his stay in Pyongyang this weekend, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Saturday.
Speaking when Pompeo arrived in Tokyo, Nauert told reporters that the only thing the Secretary of State had left in Pyongyang was a letter to Kim from Trump. "He left nothing but a letter," Nauert said.
Rumors about the unusual gift had been triggered by a report in the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo on Friday.
Kang In -sung, a Washington correspondent for the widely read conservative publication, quoted an anonymous diplomatic source as saying that President Trump had signed a copy of the CD for Kim, since the North Korean leader had asked about the song during their meeting in Singapore last month.
Trump nicknamed Kim "rocket man" last year in reference to North Korea's repeated missile tests under his watch; Since Kim took office in 2011, the isolated country had tested more than 85 missiles and four nuclear weapons. "Rocket Man" is also the name of a 1972 rock song by British singer Elton John, featured on the Honky Château album.
The Chosun Ilbo report was widely shared, perhaps partly because it suggested a carefree side to tense denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea. The gift may also have suggested to some that Kim had a sense of humor about himself, despite his stern appearances in North Korea's state media.
The journalist who was accompanying him to North Korea had asked Pompeo before. The Secretary of State laughed, but did not confirm or deny the report.
Nauert told reporters in Japan on Saturday that Pompeo did not meet with Kim during his visit to North Korea, but that they had not expected to do so. Instead, Pompeo spent most of his time in meetings with his negotiating counterpart, Kim Yong Chol, a former spymaster who had casually provoked his sleep habits.
The talks between Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol were the first high-level face-to-face meetings since Trump and Kim met in Singapore on June 12 and reached an agreement to work towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, among other things.
Amid growing scrutiny of North Korea's commitment to relinquish its weapons, the Secretary of State had visited the country in an attempt to elaborate the details of a denuclearization plan.
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