Ryan Pickrell, DCNF
Basketball hall-of-famer Dennis Rodman, who has made multiple trips to Pyongyang, told reporters Monday he knows what North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un wants most.
“I’ve been trying to tell Donald since day one: ‘Come talk to me, man…I’ll tell you what the Marshal wants more than anything…It’s not even that much,’” Rodman told the Guardian. When reporters asked what Kim wanted, he replied, “I ain’t telling you. I will tell him [Trump] when I see him.”
There are many different theories about what Kim wants. Some observers argue that the young dictator wants guaranteed regime survival and recognition for his country as a nuclear state. Others, however, suggest that Pyongyang aspires to develop a reliable ability to keep America at arms length while unifying the Korean Peninsula by force. The CIA assesses that Kim is a rational actor, but the young dictator and his long-term interests are not expressly clear.
Rodman has repeatedly expressed a desire to bring President Donald Trump and Kim together for talks to help defuse tensions. As a close friend of Kim, Rodman visited the North in 2013, 2014, and 2017. The retired basketball star says he wants to go back to North Korea, but the travel ban put in place after the death of University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, who was detained in North Korea for more than a year before he was returned home in terrible condition only to die a few days later, prevents Rodman from making the journey.
The athlete-turned-ambassador believes he should be a peace envoy to North Korea, and asserts he is the right man to help defuse rising tensions.
“If I can go back over there … you’ll see me talking to him, and sitting down and having dinner, a glass of wine, laughing and doing my thing. I guess things will settle down a bit and everybody can rest at ease,” Rodman explained to reporters. “I think a lot of people around the world … want me to go just to see if I can do something.”
Rodman has been traveling around the Asia Pacific to Guam, Japan, and now China. Speaking in Guam, Rodman revealed a little information about his friend Kim, stating that the young dictator does not want war. “Donald Trump and [Kim] … it is more like two big kids deciding who is the toughest,” he said, downplaying the possibility of conflict but acknowledging tensions. Despite his reassurances, the odds that a miscalculation or rash act could result in a serious conflict are high given North Korea’s frequent ballistic and nuclear provocations and the significant U.S. military presence in the region.
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