Rodman to try 'basketball diplomacy' with North Korea

Mon Sep 9, 2013 6:24pm EDT
 
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By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former NBA player Dennis Rodman hopes some "basketball diplomacy" will open doors with North Korea and possibly lead to dialogue between its leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Barack Obama.

Rodman plans to train a North Korean basketball team for a pair of exhibition matches against a U.S. team in the isolated, communist-ruled country in January, Rodman told a news conference on Monday following his second visit to North Korea this year for meetings with Kim.

"I would love to make this a gimmick and make a (bunch) of money, but it's not about the money," Rodman said. "It's about trying to open Obama's and everyone's minds and, guess what, you don't have to talk about politics. Talk about anything in the world. Meet him in Switzerland, meet him in London, meet him in Ireland, just meet him or even give him a call. That's all he wants."

Rodman's previous visit in February came shortly after North Korea conducted its third nuclear test in defiance of U.N. resolutions. Rodman said upon his return from that trip that Kim wanted to receive a call from Obama, an avid basketball fan.

The White House has said the United States has direct channels of communication with North Korea and declined to directly respond to Rodman's message that Kim hoped to hear from Obama after his last visit.

The former NBA star said Monday he would conduct the first-ever television interview with Kim, who "wants to change," and described him as a friend.

Rodman said he was going back to North Korea for a week in December to assemble and train a North Korean team for two games against an American team on January 8, Kim's birthday, and January 10 in Pyongyang, the capital.

Kim's date of birth remains publicly unconfirmed and he is believed to be 30.   Continued...

 
Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman speaks at a news conference in New York September 9, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer