North Korea’s young leader has riled the U.S. with recent nuclear tests, but Kim Jong Un doesn’t really want war with the superpower, just a call from President Barack Obama to chat about their shared love of basketball, according to erstwhile diplomat Dennis Rodman, the ex-NBA star just back from an improbable visit to the reclusive communist country.
“He loves basketball. … I said Obama loves basketball. Let’s start there” as a way to warm up relations between U.S. and North Korea, Rodman told ABC’s This Week.
“He asked me to give Obama something to say and do one thing. He wants Obama to do one thing, call him,” said Rodman, who called the authoritarian leader an “awesome guy” during his trip. The State Department criticized North Korea last week for “wining and dining’ Rodman while its own people go hungry.
Rodman also said Kim told him, “I don’t want to do war. I don’t want to do war.”
Yet in January, after the U.N. Security Council voted to condemn the North’s successful rocket launch in December and expand penalties against Kim’s government, his National Defense Commission said in a statement that “settling accounts with the U.S. needs to be done with force, not with words.” The statement also promised “a new phase of the anti-U.S. struggle that has lasted century after century.”
North Korea and the U.S. fought on opposite sides of the three-year Korean War, which ended in a truce in 1953. The foes technically remain at war. They never signed a peace treaty and do not have diplomatic relations.
Rodman was the highest-profile American to meet Kim since Kim inherited power from father Kim Jong Il in 2011. He traveled to the secretive state with the Harlem Globetrotters team for a new HBO series produced by New York-based VICE television.