BEIJING – Former NBA star Dennis Rodman, the only foreigner with access to North Korea’s reclusive dictator Kim Jong Un, returned from Pyongyang Monday defending his controversial “basketball diplomacy” there.
Americans and North Koreans “can actually get along,” said Rodman, who apologized he “couldn’t do anything” about Kenneth Bae, a Korean American missionary imprisoned in North Korea.
Rodman will return to Pyongyang in about a month for another game of basketball, he said, following the exhibition game last Wednesday between a North Korean team and a Rodman-led team of a team of ex-NBA players and current streetballers.
The ex-Chicago Bulls forward sang ‘happy birthday’ to Kim before tip-off, and spent the second half sitting beside his “friend for life”, reported to be a Chicago Bulls fan.
Rights groups and U.S. politicians have criticized Rodman for engaging with the North’s repressive regime. While in Pyongyang, he was forced to apologize for comments last week that blamed Bae for his own incarceration.
At Beijing airport Monday, at the end of his fourth trip to Pyongyang over the past 12 months, Rodman said “I’m sorry that I couldn’t do anything”, when asked if had raised Bae’s case with Kim.0