Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has been riding a wave of publicity for weeks now by praising the leader of North Korea, completely glossing over the communist state’s recent threats of nuclear war and flagrant human rights abuses.
Rodman recently drew a renewed burst of attention and criticism for his visit to the DPRK with a camera crew from VICE in late February. Since his return to the United States, Rodman has blazed a trail of confusing interviews in which he expressed his friendship with the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, propelling the ex-basketball star back into the spotlight.
The pattern continued in an exclusive interview with a Fargo, ND news station. In the interview, Rodman cited his friendship with Kim, which extends to Rodman wanting to go back to North Korea in August to vacation, when asked whether he still believes that North Korea doesn’t want war with the United States:
RODMAN: I sure do. I sure do. He doesn’t want to do anything. […] I didn’t even want to try to meet the guy. The kid [Kim Jong-un] is awesome. But I think his grandfather and his father built this whole thing up. Because he has to do this. He doesn’t want to do anything. That much I do know.
“He wants to not fight. He asked me to tell Obama, ‘Please call me,’” Rodman continued. State Department officials have said repeatedly that Rodman’s trip to North Kore was not in any way sponsored by the U.S. government. “Dennis Rodman was a great basketball player, and as a diplomat, he was a great basketball player, and that’s where we’ll leave it,” Secretary of State John Kerry said when asked about the former Chicago Bulls star’s voyage.
Despite Rodman’s claims, North Korea has been doing a lot of saber-rattling since conducting its third nuclear test in December. Pyongyang on Monday declared that it had unilaterally withdrawn from the 1953 armistice agreement that ended fighting between the North and South, at least the second time it had made this claim. Ahead of new sanctions against the state, the North Korean state news agency issued its bluntest warning towards the U.S. yet:
“Since the United States is about to ignite a nuclear war, we will be exercising our right to preemptive nuclear attack against the headquarters of the aggressor in order to protect our supreme interest,” the North’s foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
Unimpressed, the United Nations Security Council on Thursday morning unanimously passed the sanctions package, following weeks of negotiation between the United States and China. The UN Human Rights Council also this week issued a new report on the atrocious human rights record on display from North Korea, including examples of torture, enforced disappearances, and an extensive system of prison camps. It is unclear whether the report will put a damper on Rodman’s summer plans.