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)

Latest Stories

5 hours ago in Entertainment

Pitch, please: Julia Robert ‘sells’ sex toys on ‘Ellen’

25-overlay-10

The "Pretty Woman" star, who plays a host on the Home Shopping Network (HSN) in her new movie "Mother's Day," was tasked with gushing about a blind item, which members of the studio audience could see.

10 hours ago in Entertainment

REVIEW: ‘Green Room’ is a gory, good time

13-overlay-12

It's lean, mean, loud and grisly, and a ton of bloody fun.

10 hours ago in Entertainment

Appeals court to hear ex-Subway pitchman’s appeal May 20

jaredfogleAP

A federal appeals court in Chicago has set a May hearing for former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle's appeal of his more than 15-year sentence in a child sex abuse and pornography case.

12 hours ago in Music

Family gives blessing for Whitney Houston documentary

whitneyhouston97101313191

"The Whitney Houston project" - the first to be officially authorized by the singer's estate since her death in 2012 - will be helmed by Academy Award-winning Scottish director Kevin Macdonald.

12 hours ago in Entertainment

‘Wet Hot American Summer’ returning for 10 year reunion

12-overlay-9

The 2001 film, featuring Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Bradley Cooper and Amy Poehler, among others, was a box office flop upon its release, but it has become a cult classic over the years.