Tag Archives: North Korea Basketball

Dennis Rodman steals ball from U.S. govt as N Korea cancels U.S. mission to free prisoner on eve of Rodman visit

30 Aug

Dennis Rodman steals ball from U.S. government as N Korea cancels official U.S. mission to free prisoner on eve of Rodman visit

State: “It was a done deal. King was going to come back with Kenneth Bae. That was the arrangement”
BY NATE THAYER , AUGUST 31, 2013

Former NBA legend Dennis Rodman will return to North Korea soon with a “promise” to gain the release of jailed American proselytizer Kenneth Bae, as Pyongyang abruptly cancelled Friday an invitation to a senior State Dept. official who, according to U.S. officials, had already hammered out an agreement that would have seen the prisoner return with the most senior U.S. official to visit the isolated nation since Kim Jong Un assumed power in December 2011.

Three days ago, on August 27, the U.S. State Department announced that Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Robert King would travel to North Korea to bring home an American Christian missionary doing hard labor in prison for proselytizing Christianity.

What several senior U.S officials involved in the negotiations to release the U.S. prisoner didn’t know, was flamboyant former basketball star Dennis Rodman, is scheduled to arrive in Pyongyang in a few days at the invitation of “my friend” Kim Jong Un with a stated mission to bring about the release of Kenneth Bae. Now, instead of Ambassador King, it appears that the tatood, heavily pierced ‘bad boy’ Rodman will likely be the point man for the release of Bae.

On Thursday, the U.S. announced King “will travel to Pyongyang August 30 on a humanitarian mission focused on securing the release of U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae,” according to a State Department spokesperson. “Ambassador King will request the D.P.R.K. pardon Mr. Bae and grant him special amnesty on humanitarian grounds so that he can be reunited with his family and seek medical treatment.”

But today, as King was en-route to North Korea and on a layover in Japan, Pyongyang cancelled the invitation to talk about the American prisoner “abruptly” and “without explanation,” according to the U.S. State department. The U.S. State Dept. said Friday it was “surprised and disappointed,” adding it had sought “clarification” from Pyongyang about the eleventh-hour decision. Despite having “sought clarification from the DPRK about its decision”, the U.S. announced this morning that  ”Ambassador King intends to return to Washington from Tokyo the afternoon of August 31.”

“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 King Thursday and with years of experience negotiating the release of U.S. citizens jailed previously by Pyongyang 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.

Rodman “promised” Thursday that he would raise the issue with Kim Jong Un at a scheduled meeting at the invitation of “my friend” Kim Jong Un, the 29 year old basketball fanatic who leads North Korea and its nuclear weaponized fourth largest standing army in the world.

“I will definitely ask for Kenneth Bae’s release,” Rodman told Huffington’s Live host Marc Lamont Hill.

“I will say, ‘Marshal, why is this guy held hostage?’ I could try and soften it up in that way. If the Marshal says, ‘Dennis, you know, do you want me to let him loose?’ and then if I actually got him loose – and I’m just saying this out the blue – I’d be the most powerful guy in the world.”

See full story on NKNew.org http://www.nknews.org/2013/08/dennis-rodman-assumes-u-s-envoy-to-north-koreas-rescue-mission/

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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