NBA basketball legend Dennis Rodman spent some time in North Korea to visit with one of his biggest fans, 28-year-old leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un. After spending time where U.S. government officials are not allowed, Rodman said he got to know Kim in a personal way. "He don't want war," Rodman claimed. Col. Stephen Ganyard, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, commented that there was "nobody at the CIA who could tell you more personally about Kim Jong Un than Dennis Rodman."
Rodman granted an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week after his visit. He said that he does not condone Kim's human rights violations, but said that the leader "let his guards down" and treated him like a friend. Kim told Rodman he wants President Obama to call him. Dennis recalled him saying, "If you can Dennis (tell him to call) ... I don't want to do war."
Stephanopoulos challenged Rodman's friendship with a man who has put 200,000 people in prison camps. Rodman fought back saying, "It's amazing how we do the same thing here." The United States has the highest incarceration numbers in the world, with an especially high rate for members of Rodman's own race. The basketball forward was pointing out that, while it is true that Kim has a love of power, so does President Obama and other leaders all over the world. One wonders, for example, if anybody should build a relationship with Obama, who has a targeted kill list.
Rodman played the role of ambassador for the United States in his visit with Kim Jong Un. Citing the fact that Kim loves the game of basketball, he told the leader, "Obama loves basketball. Let's start there." Although it does not sound like much, Rodman's "basketball diplomacy" is a bigger step than any official U.S. agent has been able to take towards more peaceful relations with the country. Current U.S. policy toward North Korea involves only isolation, deterrence of an attack against South Korea, and the occasional bribery.
Secretary of State John Kerry was unimpressed by Rodman's magical touch with the young leader in North Korea. He said Rodman "was a great basketball player, and as a diplomat, he was a great basketball player." The basketball legend says he plans to go back to North Korea in the future and get to know Kim better.
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