- iHaveNet.com: Asia
By Clarence Page
It is really not so odd that we would find Dennis Rodman partying heartily with North Korea's Kim Jong Un. After all, they have so much in common. Think of Kim as Rodman with less height, fewer piercings, more nuclear menace -- and more blood on his hands.
They also both love basketball, self-promotion and keeping the world guessing about their sanity.
At least Rodman's motives for this match-up are easier to guess. What else is a former
The retired Hall of Fame rebound artist with the
He's also dyed his hair in a multitude of day-glo colors and married Baywatch beauty Carmen Electra for all of nine days before their annulment. He even served time as a contestant on Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice," the world Olympics of celebrities who have exceeded their sell-by dates.
Yet at a time when he was becoming so-o-o-o last century, the Dennis formerly known as a menace found a new way to make jaws drop again: Pal around with a nuclear terrorist.
That's Kim, North Korea's cherubic third-generation despot who resembles the Pillsbury Doughboy with a high-top fade haircut and a Mao suit.
Their bizarre basketball diplomacy occurred during a trip to Pyongyang sponsored by VICE Media for an HBO newsmagazine show to debut in April.
In a country that is infamous for mass starvation and enormous prison camps, Rodman dined, watched a basketball game that mixed members of the Harlem Globetrotters with some North Korean players, and hung out for two days with the famine-ridden country's supreme leader.
After his return, Rodman sounded like a grateful stooge for Kim's propaganda efforts. He called Kim "my friend" and "a great guy" and urged President Barack Obama to respond to Kim's requests for a phone call.
Yet as the
Remember the historic 1971 U.S. ping pong team's visit to China that led to President Richard Nixon's opening of diplomatic relations. Rodman eagerly offered a similar bridge-builder. President Obama loves basketball and so does Kim, said Rodman: "Let's start there."
Fat chance. The North Korean regime has been so uncooperative and irrationally belligerent with the rest of the world that even their biggest ally, China, seems barely able to tolerate them. President Obama, like his predecessors, prefers to deal with North Korea in partnership with China, South Korea and other regional powers.
Even so, the regime has cut itself off so much from the rest of the world that, as Col. Steve Ganyard, a former deputy assistant secretary of state, told
If true, basketball opens another peak into the strange mindset of a leader who may not be in complete control of his own restless military establishment. Like Rodman, he wants attention and deserves to have it, although not necessarily in the way that either of them wants it.
Copyright © Tribune Media Services, Inc. "Basketball Diplomacy, Pyongyang Style"
Basketball Diplomacy, Pyongyang Style | Current Events in North Korea