News

Rodman: North Korea visit could ‘open door’

Rodman: North Korea visit could ‘open door’

RODMAN THE DIPLOMAT: Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman (C) is surrounded by journalists as he arrives at the Beijing Capital International Airport to leave for Pyongyang, in Beijing, Jan. 6. Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) – American basketball star Dennis Rodman defended his latest visit to North Korea in an interview with CNN on Tuesday, saying it would help “open the door” to the reclusive state.

Rodman, speaking during his fourth trip to the country, expressed “love” for leader Kim Jong-un and claimed his controversial trip was a “great idea for the world”.

Rodman and a team of fellow former National Basketball Association stars will hold basketball games in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, to mark Kim’s birthday, which is believed to fall on Wednesday, though this has never been officially confirmed.

PHOTOS: Dennis Rodman through the years

The games come just weeks after Kim’s powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek was purged and executed. South Korean President Park Geun-hye has described recent events in North Korea as a “reign of terror.”

During the interview, the former NBA star also appeared to question the activities of Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae, who has been held in North Korea on charges of crimes against the state since May last year.

“If you understand what Kenneth Bae did …. Do you understand what he did in this country? Why is he held captive in this country?” Rodman said.

Rodman has faced both ridicule and harsh criticism from some quarters for his trips, which some U.S. politicians and activists view as serving only as fodder for propaganda efforts by the North Korean regime.

“This is not about me. If I can open the door a little bit, just a little bit,” Rodman said. “It’s all about the game. People love to do one thing – sports.”

EXTRA: A Tumblr account dedicated to pictures of Kim Jong-un looking at things

He also lamented the criticism his visits have drawn.

“It’s amazing how we thrive on negativity. Does anyone know this guy’s only 31-years-old?” he said of Kim, whom he calls his friend.

“Dennis, he could be 31, he could be 51,” said CNN interviewer Chris Cuomo. “He’s just killed his uncle. He’s holding an American hostage.”

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington and David Stanway in Beijing; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

Today in entertainment history: May 29

Fresh
elvis

A look back on the Hollywood headlines that made history.

in Local Sports

Kluber strikes out 13 in Indians’ 5-3 win over Mariners

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber delivers against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of a baseball game Monday, May 18, 2015, in Chicago.

Cleveland won for the eighth time in 10 games.

in Local

Justices toss Washington law countering bad-faith lawsuits

wash supreme court

The Washington Supreme Court has struck down a state law that attempts to curtail lawsuits brought in bad faith to hinder public discussion.

in Local

Report: Deficient risk assessment led to drill rig grounding

oil drilling

Investigators say the grounding of a Shell drilling rig in 2012 was due to the company's inadequate assessment of risk.

in Local

Part of Whatcom County closed to shellfish harvesting

generic sick clam graphic

Public health officials say concerns about "red tide," which can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning, led to the closure.