February 28, 2013

Dennis Rodman tells Kim Jong Un he has 'friend for life'

Jean H. Lee / The Associated Press

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and former NBA star Dennis Rodman watch North Korean and U.S. players in an exhibition basketball game at an arena in Pyongyang on Thursday.

AP

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Flamboyant former NBA star Dennis Rodman, fifth from right, poses with three members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, in red jerseys, and a production crew for the media upon arrival at Pyongyang Airport, North Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. Rodman known as "The Worm" arrived in Pyongyang, becoming an unlikely ambassador for sports diplomacy at a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

AP

Thursday's game ended in a 110-110 tie, with two Americans playing on each team alongside North Koreans.

After the game, Rodman addressed Kim in a speech before a crowd of tens of thousands of North Koreans, telling him, "You have a friend for life," Detrick said.

At a lavish dinner later, the leader plied the group with food and drinks and round after round of toasts were made.

"Dinner was an epic feast. Felt like about 10 courses in total," Duffy said in an email to AP. "I'd say the winners were the smoked turkey and sushi, though we had the Pyongyang cold noodles earlier in the trip, and that's been the runaway favorite so far."

Duffy said he invited Kim to visit the United States, a proposal met with hearty laughter from the North Korean leader.

Kim said he hoped sports exchange would promote "mutual understanding between the people of the two countries," KCNA said.

Rodman's trip is the second attention-grabbing U.S. 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 Washington, the State Department refused comment on Rodman's visit or his meeting with Kim. "Private, individual Americans are welcome to take actions they see fit," spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

He said the Obama administration wasn't in touch with Rodman and wasn't making an effort to contact him.

The administration had frowned on the trip by Schmidt and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, but has avoided criticizing Rodman's outing, saying it's about sports.

North Korea's invitation to a man known as much for his piercings, tattoos and bad behavior as for his basketball may seem perplexing. But Kim is known to be a fan of the NBA and has promoted sports since becoming leader.

"We knew that he's a big lover of basketball, especially the Bulls, and it was our intention going in that we would have a good will mission of something that's fun," Smith said. "A lot of times, things just are serious and everybody's so concerned with geopolitics that we forget just to be human beings."

Rodman's agent, Darren Prince, said Rodman wasn't concerned about criticism about making a visit to an enemy nation.

"Dennis called me last night and said it's been a great experience and he made this trip out of the love of the USA," he said. "It's all about peace and love."

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