Former NBA star Dennis Rodman just returned from playing basketball diplomat to North Korea and said the isolated country's leader Kim Jong Un doesn't want war with the United States. The tattooed and pierced quasi-ambassador said Kim just wants President Barack Obama to give him a call.
Obama and Kim share a love of basketball. "So let's start there," said Rodman.
Rodman sat down with George Stephanopoulos in the "This Week" studio in New York Sunday morning and relayed the message after spending two days with Kim and the Harlem Globetrotters.
Kim, who has strained ties between the two countries with recent underground nuclear tests, " don't want war — that's one thing he don't want," said Rodman.
Pressed by Stephanopoulos about Kim’s threats to the destroy the United States, and his family’s horrendous record on human rights, Rodman said: “I don’t condone that. I hate the fact that he’s doing that. … I didn’t talk about that. …I saw people respected him, his family. … “[He’s] only 28 — 28. He’s not his dad. He’s not his grandpa. He is 28 years old. … He’s very humble. He’s a very humble man. … He don’t want war – that’s one thing he don’t want. … He loves power. He loves control, because of his father, you know – stuff like that. But he’s just — he’s a great guy. He’s just a great guy. You sit down and talk to him.”
The State Department has distanced itself from Rodman's visit — although the troubled ex-NBA player —aka "The Worm" — is the highest-profile American to meet with the dictator since he took power after his father's death in December 2011.
Stephanopoulos questioned Rodman on North Korea's political prison camps, to which Rodman replied, "We do the same things here."
"It sounds like you're apologizing for him," said Stephanopoulos.
"No, I’m not apologizing for him," countered Rodman. "He was a great guy to me. He was my friend. I don’t condone what he does. But as a person to person, he’s my friend. … What I did was history. … He’s a friend to me. That’s about it."
Rodman said he would be returning to Pyongyang to "find out more what's really going on."
"OK, next time you go back, you should bring this report from the Human Rights Watch ... maybe you could ask some questions about that," a stern Stephanopoulos told his guest. "You might learn a lot more and it might press him. But thank you for coming on this morning and sharing your impressions."
"Don't hate me," said Rodman, before slipping out of the ABC studio and skipping his scheduled interview with ESPN.