Dennis Rodman hails North Korea dictator as new pal
NBA star visits communist state on basketball tour, but it's hardly Nixon in China
ECCENTRIC basketball player Dennis Rodman has been involved in some unlikely-sounding partnerships in his time but his latest dalliance beats them all.
The cross-dressing former NBA star, once married to Carmen Electra and an ex-lover of Madonna, declared that had made "a friend for life" after meeting North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un during a tour of the secretive communist state.
He was visiting the isolated country with members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team on a trip organised by a US TV company and designed to build bridges between the two nations.
It seemed to work. Kim and Rodman got on famously as they watched the Globetrotters in action against North Korea's top players. After the game, which ended 110-all, the 6ft 7in star, who sports an array of facial piercings, spoke to the crowd and told them he and Kim were now firm friends.
Then he and the US players joined Kim at his palace, where they drank together and dined on sushi. Rodman is renowned as a hard-drinking party animal and, according to the TV company, he "had a grand old time".
The visit has provoked a mix of amusement and bewilderment in the West. "So rampant and radioactive is Rodman's individualism that the mere idea of him colliding with a totalitarian regime is intriguing in the extreme," said The Guardian. The New York Times described the pictures of Rodman and the Korean dictator as one of "the strangest sights in the history of accidental American diplomacy".
Some even compared it to President Nixon's groundbreaking, opera-inspiring visit to China in 1972.
However, Yahoo! Sport blogger Kelly Dwyer decried the entire event as a publicity stunt, noting that Rodman "doesn't have a lot of shame" and adding: "Kim Jong Un may be a fan of basketball ... but he's also a terrible person."
The idea that Rodman was not fully aware of the situation was given credibility by a tweet in which he wondered if he would meet South Korean rapper Psy, the man behind Gangnam Style, in Pyongyang. The answer was a firm 'no'.
North Korean state news agency KCNA reported that Rodman had "paid homage" to former leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il at their mausoleum in Pyongyang, where he signed the visitor's book.
Rodman called for "mutual understanding" between the US and North Korea. However, the KCNA website also featured a reminder of the gulf between the two countries. Next to the reports of Rodman's visit was an article warning that North Korea, which recently conducted nuclear tests, would "humble the arrogance of the US imperialists at a single blow". ·