Basketball Hall-of-Famer, Dennis Rodman, will be traveling to North Korea for the first time in three years, according to a senior Trump administration official.
Two North Korean officials also told CNN that Mr. Rodman is expected to arrive at Pyongyang on Tuesday—they gave no other details. Rodman was spotted at Beijing international airport, but declined to answer questions.
According to sources, Rodman is going without any affiliation with the United States Government—he’s going as a private citizen, to visit Kim Jon Un, who has described Rodman as his “best friend.”
The almost 60-year-old Rodman, who has won five NBA championships, previously traveled to North Korea in 2014. On that trip, he sang “Happy Birthday,” to an elated Kim Jong Un, and played a pickup game of basketball.
Although this may seem trivial, many have referred to it as “basketball diplomacy.” Some believe that it may strengthen US relations with North Korea, while others think that it’s pandering, and should be avoided at all costs.
The Guardian reports:
“The visit, an exercise in what some have optimistically termed ‘basketball diplomacy’, has been marked by Rodman’s ill-tempered, incoherent response to accusations that his presence lends legitimacy to a singularly brutal regime.”
“One wonders what his host – reportedly a basketball fan since his days being expensively educated in Switzerland – made of the spectacle.”
“What is quickly turning into a public relations nightmare for the irascible Rodman – whose fellow players looked like they would rather be anywhere but Pyongyang during his tetchy pre-game interview with CNN on Tuesday – can only have helped burnish Kim’s reputation, at least at home.”
“Now he can add being feted by household names in a sport beloved of his country’s nemesis to a list of achievements over the past year that have horrified observers and induced grudging admiration.”
“In Rodman’s great cultural adventure in North Korea, the diplomatic gains, it seems, are all Kim’s.”
Fox News adds that North Korea has “…disclosed and tested four new missile systems this year and could have a working nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile in the next several years.” They report that “the country is currently holding four Americans in detention for various alleged crimes.”
While many have spoken out against Rodman for openly befriending a tyrannical dictator, others have said it’s just what we need in such a time of global chaos. Many believe that Rodman visiting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could lead to better relations.
Still, the majority of Americans are hostile towards Rodman’s actions—he’s been accused of ignoring North Korea’s human rights violations, as well. Pyongyang alone has reportedly imprisoned more than 100,000 of its own people in “draconian, Soviet-style prison camps,” according to CNN, and spends “…millions on its military programs,” while its people starve.
Tensions are at an all time high with North Korea, having launched 16 ballistic missiles just this year. With each launch, the country gets closer and closer to its stated goal of developing a nuclear-armed weapon capable of reaching the United States.
Whether or not Rodman’s visit to North Korea will strengthen or hurt US relations is yet to be seen. Expect to hear more over the next week as Rodman’s publicity team reveals more details.