Last week, Rodman went to Pyongyang, North Korea with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team and a camera crew from the upcoming HBO series, VICE. He hung out with Kim, sitting next to him at a basketball game and attending a party at the dictator’s palace. Rodman’s visit comes amid heightened tensions between North Korea and the United States.
Despite the threats, President Obama vowed to impose further sanctions on the country, whose citizens already suffer from crippling economic and social conditions, in attempt to isolate the regime. North Korea has said it intends to move forward with more long-range rocket and nuclear weapon testing.
The administration has faced criticism from GOP lawmakers who have urged a tougher approach against Kim. Administration officials also acknowledge there is still much they do not know about the new North Korean leader, who assumed power in 2011 and his intentions.
The State Department, though, has sought to distance itself from the basketball star’s trip, saying it has no plans to de-brief the star following his return. Rodman has spent more time with Kim since any other American since he succeeded his leader as father.
Rodman suggested that the North Korean leader had been misunderstood and did not seek conflict with Washington.
“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,” Rodman said.
However, in January, after the U.N. Security Council voted to condemn the North’s successful rocket launch in December and expand penalties against Kim’s government, his National Defense Commission said in a statement that “settling accounts with the U.S. needs to be done with force, not with words.” The statement also promised “a new phase of the anti-U.S. struggle that has lasted century after century.”
North Korea and the U.S. fought on opposite sides of the three-year Korean War, which ended in a truce in 1953. The foes technically remain at war. They never signed a peace treaty and do not have diplomatic relations.