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 National, World

Bill Clinton says AIDS-free generation ‘within reach’

Fresh
clinton

An AIDS-free generation is within reach if early treatment is provided and help increased, former U.S. President Bill Clinton says.

in Entertainment

Today in entertainment history: July 24

elton-john

A look back at some of Hollywood's most memorable moments.

in Local Sports

WSU’s Leach looking to build on last year’s bowl game

Washington State Head Coach Mike Leach takes questions at the 2014 Pac-12 NCAA college football media days at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles Wednesday, July 23, 2014.

The Cougars return eight starters, including school record setting, senior quarterback Connor Halliday, from a 6-and-7 campaign last season.

in Local Sports

USC’s Sarkisian happy for the University of Washington

Southern California head coach Steve Sarkisian takes questions at the Pac-12 NCAA college football media days at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, Wednesday, July 23, 2014.

USC's Sarkisian on the Huskies: "I can honestly say I'll be rooting for them this fall."

in Local Sports

Colon overpowers Seattle in New York’s 3-2 win

New York Mets starting pitcher Bartolo Colon throws against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, July 23, 2014 in Seattle.

Colon came within seven outs of a perfect game giving up a single to Robinson Cano with two outs in the seventh inning. Mariners drop series to Mets and have gone just 2-and-4 since the All-Star break.