In September of 2017, Donald Trump delivered a uniquely colloquial and threatening speech during his first address to the UN General Assembly where he threatened to “destroy” the DPRK (North Korea). The speech contained the infamous line where he addressed the DPRK’s head of state Kim Jong-un in the follow way,
“Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime”.
Day’s later, the DPRK’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho addressed the General Assembly and said,
“Due to his [Trump’s] lacking of basic common knowledge and proper sentiment, he tried to insult the supreme dignity of my country by referring it to a rocket. By doing so, however, he committed an irreversible mistake of making our rockets’ visit to the entire U.S. mainland inevitable all the more”.
In spite of Ri’s statement, Trump continued to refer to the DPRK’s head of state as “rocket man” until the formalisation of the current peace process, during which Trump has switched to a vastly more diplomatic tone. The apparently about face from threats and insults to warm handshakes and smiles between Kim and Trump has now manifested itself in one of the more unusual exchanges of goods between two countries that have yet to establish normal economic relations.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is currently in Pyongyang to consult with the DPRK head of state and his colleagues about the ongoing de-nuclearisation process. It is also suspected that Pompeo might be trying to arrange a further meeting between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. Through Pompeo’s discussions with the DPRK leadership, it has emerged that the 1972 Elton John song ‘Rocket Man’ is not well known in the DPRK and hence the origin of Trump’s insulting former nickname for Kim Jong-un was seemingly lost on officials in Pyongyang.
In light of this, as a means of humorously atoning for his previous insults, reports have emerged indicating that Donald Trump has autographed a music CD of Elton John’s song and has handed it to Mike Pompeo to give to Kim Jong-un as a gift.
As seemingly awkward as this sounds, this is a clear indication that in spite of the months of insults flying across international media where Kim Jong-un famously called Trump a “dotard”, meaning a old mentally weak man while Trump continued to call Kim “rocket man” and sometimes “little rocket man” – in reality both parties are now willing to put the past behind them and embrace a spirit of cultural exchange which in Trump’s case includes introducing Kim to the song that inspired Trump to create the insult head round the world.
The fact that the two sides are now able to exchange humorous gifts is symptomatic of just how rapidly the current peace process is unfolding. The rhetoric that months ago threatened to push the world towards an uncertain and less secure future is now the stuff of salutatory gestures in the midst of a peace process that could lead to the wider economic opening of an increasingly united Korean peninsula which still technically remains at war.