Back when Pompeo was still head of the Central Intelligence Agency, he went to North Korea in the Spring of 2018 to secretly negotiate the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim. From an outsider's point of view, the meeting could not have been more awkward: While Pompeo was head of the CIA, North Korea accused the organization of trying to assassinate Kim, as Business Insider reported last year. Pompeo himself spoke out in favor of some form of forceful regime change in Pyongyang, following a series of North Korean nuclear tests in 2017.
"The North Korean people I'm sure are lovely people and would love to see him go," Pompeo told CNN last July.
So when Pompeo met Kim in person a few months later, the topic was still a palpable elephant in the room. According to Vanity Fair's Abigail Tracy citing an unnamed Pompeo colleague, the North Korean leader "immediately challenged" Pompeo about his homicidal cravings.
"But Pompeo didn't flinch," Tracy wrote. "The CIA director joked that he was still trying to kill him, this former staffer said, and both men laughed."
Pompeo's record of remarks toward Pyongyang and its leaders is far from consistent. As he dropped hints about regime change last July, he also warned that he does not view Kim's ouster as "unadulterated good" for the US, pointing to the unknown consequences of such a move.
However, his spur of the moment quip worked well, as both Kim and Pompeo later posed for pictures and went on to further discussions.
"This is the first time I have met someone with the same kind of guts," Kim reportedly said of Pompeo after the meeting, according to an April report by United Press International.