Tag Archives: Dennis Rodman North Korea

All eyes on U.S. prisoner during Dennis Rodman return visit to N. Korea

3 Sep

By Nate Thayer

NKNews.org see full story at: http://www.nknews.org/2013/09/all-eyes-on-u-s-prisoner-during-dennis-rodman-visit-to-n-korea/

Eccentric U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman will arrive in North Korea today for a five day mission where all eyes are on the plight of detained American citizen Kenneth Bae, a prisoner who on Thursday Rodman promised to talk personally to Kim Jong Un to secure his release.

Despite comments suggesting otherwise, all eyes are focusing on whether Rodman’s visit will now lead to the eventual release of the imprisoned American, especially in light of the basketballer’s Thursday pledge to personally raise the issue during his planned meeting with Kim Jong Un.

“I will definitely ask for Kenneth Bae’s release,” Rodman told Huffington Post TV of his forthcoming visit.

Rodman’s personal manager A.J. Bright told NK News that the focus of the trip would be sports diplomacy and had “no comment” when asked about the issue of Kenneth Bae being on any agenda, echoing comments made by Rodman Tuesday morning to Reuters news agency.

But the sports diplomacy trip to North Korea follows a mission cancelled Friday to release the prisoner by U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean human rights Ambassador Bob King, an eleventh hour development that left U.S North Korean experts utterly baffled and State Dept. “surprised and disappointed”.

“King was not going there to negotiate the release of Bae. It was 100% agreed he was bringing Bae home–a done deal,” a U.S. government North Korean specialist who spoke with Ambassador King Thursday told NK News. “He was going there to pick up the package.”

Had Ambassador King made his scheduled trip to Pyongyang, he would have been the highest level U.S. official to have visited the isolated nation since the young leader, Kim Jong Un, took power in December 2011…….(NKNews.org see full story at: http://www.nknews.org/2013/09/all-eyes-on-u-s-prisoner-during-dennis-rodman-visit-to-n-korea/)

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25 Years of Slam Dunk Diplomacy: Rodman trip and history of U.S.-North Korean basketball diplomacy

5 Mar

25 Years of Slam Dunk Diplomacy: Rodman trip comes after decades of basketball diplomacy between U.S. and North Korea as a central tool in nuclear bomb negotiations

by Nate Thayer , March 4, 2013
Dennis Rodman Tweeting From Pyongyang

Dennis Rodman Tweeting From Pyongyang

 NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman’s circus troupe delegation to North Korea was greeted by ridicule by most of the world. But does the Kim dynasty’s longtime basketball obsession hold the seed that will open North Korea to the world?

U.S. diplomatic insiders were dismissive of the Rodman meeting last week, describing it as “goofball diplomacy”. But basketball has played a very real role in the often bizarre, you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up backroom antics of U.S.-Pyongyang diplomatic negotiations for 25 years.

A love of the game shared by Kim Jong Il and his successor, current North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, has on occasion put basketball on the same bench as nuclear warfare in top level talks between the U.S. and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Rodman’s visit is just the latest wacky chapter in a diplomatic story that has seen the hoop dreams of Kim Jong Il become an unlikely pawn in nuclear negotiations with the U.S.

North Korean Top Nuclear Negotiator, Head of the North American Affairs for the Foreign Ministry, and Dennis Rodman, Michael Jordan, and Scotty Pippin Fanatic, Ri Gun, with U.S. North Korean Top Envoy Christopher Hill

North Korean Top Nuclear Negotiator, Head of the North American Affairs for the Foreign Ministry, and Dennis Rodman, Michael Jordan, and Scotty Pippin Fanatic, Ri Gun, with U.S. North Korean Top Envoy Christopher Hill

The Bulls fanatic from North Korea

In 1991, at a low point of relations between North Korea and the United States, Washington invited three North Koreans to a conference at George Washington University about peace on the Korean peninsula. At the time, the U.S. had no diplomatic relations with the DPRK, so the delegation from Pyongyang was attending in an “unofficial” capacity.

According to Gene Schmiel, then in charge of the Korea desk at the U.S. State Department, the “unofficial” North Korean delegation was led by a man in the Pyongyang “America department who spoke good English, was said to have an intelligence background, and close ties to the Dear Leader.”

That man was Ri Gun, a senior Pyongyang figure known to be close to Kim Jong Il and a lead member involved in every diplomatic exchange and nuclear and ballistic missile negotiations for the previous 25 years. Schmiel’s most vivid memory about the conference came when Gun revealed his passion for a very American pastime:

“After dinner, we went to their hotel room in Washington and [Gun] said ‘Oh My God! It’s eight o’clock! The Chicago Bulls are on TNT! Be quiet, we can talk during the commercials. Stop. No more talking! Michael [Jordan] and the Bulls are on TNT, and I’ve got to see if Scotty [Pippen] has gotten over his latest injury!’”

Ri Gun “then moved to the TV, turned it on and stared transfixed at the opening jump ball of the NBA basketball between the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers,” Schmiel recalled in an interview this week. “Ri Gun headed the delegation and talked about an interest in basketball and Michael Jordan…Scotty Pippen this and Michael Jordan that, the triangle defense this, three points shots. They cared more about the NBA than I did”.

“We spent the rest of our time together that evening debating not high policy, but high quality basketball shooting and such arcana as whether the NBA should permit use of the zone defense. It was clear from our discussions that he had watched the NBA for many years. They cared more about the NBA than I did”, Schmiel added.

Gun was a fanatic for American basketball, particularly for the Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Pistons, the latter known as the NBA’s bad boys for their dirty play and habitual disregard for the rules of the game (of which Dennis Rodman was the poster-boy). Gun knew the nicknames of players, NBA history, and statistics. And he knew it because, Gun told Schmiel, “he got to watch games with the boss”. That ‘boss’ would have been the then North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. Continue reading

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