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

3 hours ago in Local

Central Illinois Mitsubishi Plant Sold to Liquidation Firm

mitsubishi

Maynards Industries will take possession of the property in Normal on June 1.

3 hours ago in Local

Illinois Man Charged With Threatening Prosecutor

arrest clipart

Travis Withers of Brooklyn, Illinois has been charged with threatening the life of St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly.

3 hours ago in Local

Flooding Leaves Behind Sand, Debris in Illinois County

flood clip art

Debris piles and massive sand deposits were left behind after waters went through the breach of the Len Small Levee.

4 hours ago in Local

U of Illinois Reaches Agreement with Non-tenured Faculty

university illinois

A contract ratification vote will be held later in the week.

1 day ago in Local

New Director Named to ALPLM

FILE - In this Feb. 10, 2012 file photo, school students enter the "White House" as a life-size Abraham Lincoln replica stands outside, while touring the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. The chairman of the foundation behind the Library and Museum says fundraising is drying up because of tensions between library directors and the state agency that oversees it.

Governor Rauner announces two new appointees, one to the Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library.