Globetrotter Rodman in N Korea peace mission
As relations between the US and North Korea remain tense over the latter’s recent nuclear test, one American is reaching out to the dictator state – former Chicago Bulls basketball player Dennis Rodman.
Described as “basketball diplomacy”, Rodman has travelled to North Korea with three members of the famous Harlem Globetrotters and a film crew for basketball exhibitions in the Asian state where basketball is very popular.
They are also making a documentary for the US television channel HBO.
Invited by a North Korean basketball association, the documentary company said the basketball players hoped to “entertain and inspire” with their skills.
Rodman said he hopes to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who took power in 2011 when his father Kim Jong-il died. The son is said to be a devotee of basketball.
“I’m not a politician. Kim Jung Un North Korean people are basketball fans. I love everyone. Period. End of story,” Rodman said in a message posted on the social media website Twitter.
“I come in peace. I love the people of North Korea,” he also tweeted.
The week-long visit comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Pyongyang after North Korea’s third underground nuclear test and the launch of a long-range missile capable of carrying a warhead in December.
North Korea threatened “miserable destruction” just days ago over planned military exercises between South Korea and the US.
Famous for his flamboyant clothes and hairstyles, Rodman’s visit did not have the most diplomatic start when he mixed up his Koreas. He tweeted: “Maybe I’ll run into the Gangnam Style dude while I’m here,” not realising that the famous rapper Psy is from South Korea.
Shane Smith, the founder of Vice magazine and the host of the documentary series, noted the opportunity for Americans and North Koreans to mix was rare.
“I look at this as basketball diplomacy, the same way we had ping-pong diplomacy with China,” he was quoted as saying in the New York Times. “Once you get the Globetrotters involved, I mean how can you not smile when you see the Harlem Globetrotters?”