Former basketball star Dennis Rodman, who recently visited North Korea, says Kim Jong-un doesn’t want war with the United States.
Kim Jong-un just wants President Barack Obama to call him.
Dennis Rodman, the highest-profile American to meet Kim Jong-un since he took power in North Korea in December 2011, says Barack Obama and Kim share a love of basketball, so “let’s start there”.
The former NBA star is just back from a visit to North Korea with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team and camera crews for the upcoming HBO series VICE, during which he spent two days with Kim Jong-un.
In his first interview about the trip, Dennis Rodman spoke on ABC’s This Week.
“He wants Obama to do one thing: Call him,” Dennis Rodman told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
“He said, <<If you can, Dennis – I don’t want [to] do war. I don’t want to do war>>. He said that to me.”
The trip took place amid strained ties between the U.S. and North Korea over the North’s recent underground nuclear test.
Kim Jong-un is regarded as one of the world’s most oppressive leaders in a nation that builds prison camps and lets millions of its citizens starve to death.
In stark contrast to the poverty of his citizens, Kim Jong-un welcomed the group with a feast, ice skating, and an aquarium visit.
Upon returning, Dennis Rodman shocked many by praising Kim Jong-un.
“I love him,” he said.
Dennis Rodman stood by the controversial statement during his ABC interview.
“No, I’m not apologiz[ing] for him,” Dennis Rodman said.
“You know, he’s a good guy to me. Guess what? He’s my friend. I don’t condone what he does… [but] as a person to person – he’s my friend.”
Dennis Rodman is the first widely-known American to meet with Kim Jong-un since he became head of North Korea, succeeding his Kim Jong-il, who died in 2011.
Kim Jong-un has followed in his father’s footsteps, defying U.N. sanctions by pursing a nuclear arms and missiles program he says is aimed at the U.S.
He also shared a love of basketball with his father, and is particularly fond of the 1990s Chicago Bulls championship teams, which included Dennis Rodman.
On his trip the two watched an exhibition game between the Globetrotters and North Korean players, with Dennis Rodman telling Kim Jong-un before the crowd: “You have a friend for life.”
“I’m not a politician,” Dennis Rodman wrote on Twitter.
“Kim Jung-un & North Korean people are basketball fans. Love everyone. Period. End of story.”
The U.S. State Department has distanced itself from the visit and will not debrief Dennis Rodman on the meeting.
The decision not to talk to Dennis Rodman has been characterized as “ridiculous” by some intelligence experts.
“There is nobody at the CIA who can tell you more personally about Kim Jong-un than Dennis Rodman, and that in itself is scary,” said Steve Ganyard, a former deputy assistant secretary of state.
Dennis Rodman expects to return to North Korea.
“I’m not like a diplomat,” he said.
“I’m [going to] go back, do one thing and find out more, what’s going on. Find out more.”