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Dennis Rodman’s ‘Basketball Diplomacy’ With North Korea

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman was in New York on Monday to talk about his recent visit to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, and the country’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Rodman said that on his visit to North Korea last week, Kim trusted him enough to let him hold his baby daughter and asked him to bring a team of former basketball stars for games in Pyongyang. He also asked him to train the country’s basketball team for the next Olympics, according to the New York Times.

Rodman, who had visited Pyongyang once before at the invitation of Kim, thus solved one mystery about the North Korean leader. Although Kim’s wife, Ri Sol-ju, was seen pregnant on the North’s state-run television last year, no outsider had reported having seen the baby, much less holding it, the Times reported.

In an interview with The Guardian on Sunday, Rodman called Kim’s baby “Ju-ae.”

‘A good dad’

According to CNN, the personal life of Kim and Ri, is shrouded in secrecy. Even his exact age remains unconfirmed by outsiders. (He is believed to be in his early 30s.)

Speculation began last year that Ri might be pregnant after a photo carried by state media showed her wearing a long coat that could have been hiding a bump. But North Korean authorities kept quiet about the matter.

The flamboyant Rodman, 52, shed more light on the situation in his interview, including the daughter’s name.

“I held their baby Ju Ae and spoke with Ms. Ri as well,” he told the newspaper.

He described Kim, who sits atop one of the world’s most repressive regimes, as “a good dad.”

Basketball Diplomacy

Voice of America reports that Rodman is calling his project “basketball diplomacy.”

Daniel Pinkston, an Asia specialist at the International Crisis Group, points out it is a non-confrontational way for the two countries to begin breaking down barriers.

“We’re social beings, and interacting with other people through academic exchanges, cultural exchanges, sports exchanges – this is how we learn new things and learn how to cooperate with others,” said Pinkston.

The United States has been seeking the release of American missionary Kenneth Bae, who is in a North Korean prison and reported to be ill.  Rodman refused to answer questions about Bae. But earlier he said advocating for Bae’s release is not his job,

One of his goals seems to be grabbing the attention of President Obama.

“So why, Obama, are you afraid to talk to Dennis Rodman? You’re not afraid to talk to Beyonce and Jay-Z. Why not me?  Why not me? I’m pretty important now right,” said Rodman.

Whether his “basketball diplomacy” will score is anyone’s guess. But there’s more.

He said he has also been invited to spend three years training North Korea’s basketball delegation to try to qualify for the next Summer Olympics, VOA reports.


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