Dennis Rodman hopes to do ‘something pretty positive’ in North Korea
- Rodman lands in Pyongyang and is expected to spend four nights in North Korea
- The NBA Hall of Famer spoke to reporters at Beijing’s airport before his trip
The eccentric former basketball player arrived in Pyongyang Tuesday afternoon for an anticipated four-night visit. The trip comes at a time of heightened tension between Washington and Pyongyang.
Four Americans are currently being detained in North Korea. When asked if he planned to raise their detention with North Korean officials, Rodman said: “Well that’s not my purpose right now… My purpose is to go over there and try to see if I can keep bringing sports to North Korea.”
Rodman, a former contestant on Donald Trump’s pre-presidency reality TV show “Celebrity Apprentice, “is one of the few Americans to have met current North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.
Rodman promoted his past visits as a form of informal “basketball diplomacy,” using sports and as a way to bridge divides, said Daniel Pinkston, a professor of International Relations at Troy University in Seoul.
“We all have specialties, but Dennis does have a view about human beings and the natural state of affairs … his view seems to me is that if people will talk and interact and if there’s dialogue and exchanges and interactions, this process will naturally lead to de-escalation,” Pinkston told CNN.
Surrounded by media at Beijing airport, Rodman didn’t respond to CNN’s questions about whether he would be meeting Kim during this trip, and wouldn’t say if he was delivering a message from the US President to Pyongyang.
When asked if he had spoken to Trump at all, Rodman said, “I’m pretty sure he’s happy at the fact that I’m over here trying to accomplish something that we both need.”
What that is exactly is unclear but at Beijing’s airport on Monday and Tuesday, Rodman was wearing a black T-shirt with the logo of Potcoin — a digital currency for the cannabis industry, according to its website.
Rodman later tweeted: “I’m back! Thanks to my sponsor.”
His last visit came in January 2014, when Rodman and a group of other former NBA players took part in an exhibition basketball game. It was supposedly a birthday gift for Kim who’s said to be a big basketball fan.
Rodman was filmed leading a sing-along of “Happy Birthday” to the North Korean leader, a man he calls a friend and a “very good guy,” but is widely seen as a brutal dictator who once lauded the execution of his own uncle.
Rodman defended the trip for Kim’s birthday in a CNN interview saying it was a “great idea for the world.”
“I’m sorry for what’s going on in North Korea, the certain situations,” Rodman told CNN after returning from Pyongyang in 2014, but he didn’t specify what exactly those “situations” were and wasn’t contrite about the visit itself.
Soviet-style prison camps
This time around, four Americans are being held in North Korea, including Kim Sang Duk and Kim Hak-song, two academics who worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology; University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier; and businessman Kim Dong Chul.
The latest visit
Rodman’s visit to Pyongyang is his first since Trump, a man with whom he has a personal relationship, took office.