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 Headlines

31 mins ago in Music

Paul McCartney says he almost quit music in the early ’70s

Fresh
paulmccartney

In a new interview, the rocker reveals he went wild in the years after the Fab Four called it quits, and his band Wings helped him straighten out and rediscover his love for music.

35 mins ago in Entertainment

Tyler Perry moving to a farm

Fresh
tylerperry942732378140

The actor and filmmaker is planning to turn his new home in Georgia into a farm after cashing in on the record-breaking sale of his Atlanta mansion.

45 mins ago in Lifestyle

Kicking the habit: Adult smoking rate in U.S. is falling fast

Fresh
cigarettes16137527645580

The smoking rate among U.S. adults has been falling steadily for decades but the latest survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds the 2015 decline is the biggest in more than 20 years.

53 mins ago in Entertainment

WATCH: Hank Azaria doesn’t give a commencement address – he gives a performance

Fresh
10-overlay-8

"The Simpsons" star brings out some of his classic animated characters to address the graduates of Tufts University.

1 hour ago in Entertainment

Facebook changes policies on ‘Trending Topics’ after criticism

Fresh
facebookREUTERS

Facebook Inc said on Monday that it had changed some of the procedures for its "Trending Topics" section after a news report alleging it suppressed conservative news prompted a U.S. Congressional demand for more transparency.