News / Sports

Dennis Rodman’s Trip to North Korea Becomes Topic at both the White House and the State Department

Jason Mojica/VICE Media, via Associated PressThe North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and the former N.B.A. star Dennis Rodman watched an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang on Thursday.

Jason Mojica/VICE Media, via Associated Press
The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and the former N.B.A. star Dennis Rodman watched an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang on Thursday.

Dennis Rodman’s odd trip to North Korea got stranger on Monday, when the former NBA star’s visit to Pyongyang became a subject at both the White House and the State Department.

At press briefings in both buildings, Obama administration spokesman Jay Carney spoke with vigilance about the quality time Rodman spent watching a basketball game with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. And they implicitly rejected the invitation conveyed by Rodman on behalf of Kim for Obama to pick up the phone and call the North Korean leader.

“The United States has direct channels of communications with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, “Carney said. “And instead of spending money on celebrity sporting events to entertain the elites of that country, the North Korean regime should focus on the well-being of its own people who have been starved, imprisoned, and denied their human rights.”

The State Department presented a similar response: “We have direct channels of communication with the DPRK,” deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell said, before repeating the rest of Carney’s response.

North Korea threatened to nullify on Tuesday, March 5, the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953, citing U.S.-led international moves to impose new sanctions against it over its recent nuclear test, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported.

A draft U.S. resolution to authorize more sanctions against North Korea in response to its controversial nuclear test was formally introduced Tuesday at the U.N. Security Council by U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice.

Just weeks ago, North Korea threatened “miserable destruction” in reaction to practice military exercises planned between South Korea and the United States.

Rodman became the first known American to publicly meet with Kim since he assumed command of the totalitarian nation after the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il, in 2011.

Rodman tweeted that he was “looking forward to sitting down with Kim,” known to have been a huge basketball fan when he was a teenage student in Switzerland.

Rodman said he was “honored to represent The United States of America.”

“I’m not a politician. Kim Jung Un and North Korean people are basketball fans. I love everyone. Period. End of story,” he tweeted.

Rodman’s trip is the second compelling American visit this year to North Korea. Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, made a four-day trip in January to Pyongyang, but did not meet the North Korean leader.

In his first interview since returning to the U.S., Rodman said on “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos that he had a message for President Obama from Kim.

“He wants Obama to do one thing: Call him,” Rodman told Stephanopoulos. “He said, ‘If you can, Dennis – I don’t want [to] do war. I don’t want to do war.’ He said that to me.”

The U.S. State Department had no involvement in the visit, and officials say they have no plans to debrief Rodman after his meeting. Col. Steve Ganyard, USMC (Ret.), a former deputy assistant secretary of state and ABC News consultant, told ABC’s Martha Raddatz the State Department’s decision is “ridiculous.”

“There is nobody at the CIA who can tell you more personally about Kim Jong Un than Dennis Rodman, and that in itself is scary,” Ganyard said.

“We have urged the North Korean leadership to heed President Obama’s call to choose the path of peace and come into compliance with its international obligations,” Carney said in a Press Briefing on March 4. “North Korea’s actions, however, directly violate United Nations Security Council resolutions and threaten international peace and security.”

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