North Korea may have tested a thermonuclear device over the weekend, but the U.S. apparently has a secret weapon of its own — Dennis Rodman.
Ok, maybe not.
The basketball hall-of-famer has made multiple trips to North Korea, most recently in mid-June. Rodman has spent time with Kim Jong Un, who he has called a “friend for life,” and even held the young dictator’s daughter. “We laugh, we sing karaoke, we do a lot of cool things together like skiing and riding horses,” he said Wednesday on Good Morning Britain.
“I am just trying to straighten things out for everyone to get along,” Rodman explained.
North Korea has an intercontinental ballistic missile — the Hwasong-14 — designed to carry a thermonuclear warhead and strike targets across the continental U.S. The U.S. and its allies are preparing to significantly increase pressure on Pyongyang while keeping the application of military force on the table. Rodman, who strangely has ties to both President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, believes the U.S. needs to engage North Korea.
“If the president tries to reach out to Kim, I think there would be a great possibility that things would happen,” Rodman said, adding, “If they could sit down and have some kind of mutual conversation and try and start some dialogue, that could open the door just a little bit.” Trump, however, asserts that “talking is not the answer” with North Korea.
Rodman, who suggested that he might make another trip to North Korea at some point in the future, called on both Washington and Pyongyang to try to find a “happy medium.”
The former basketball star often presents himself as a sports ambassador, leaving politics to actual diplomats. Nonetheless, he has actively encouraged presidents, including former President Barack Obama, to meet with Kim Jong Un.
Expert observers suspect that dialogue with North Korea, beyond possibly setting up deconfliction channels, would be ineffective, as there is nothing either side can realistically offer the other to achieve peace.
“I don’t think anyone in the administration should be under any illusions about this,” Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, explained at a recent conference on North Korea. “There’s no reason to believe that Kim is remotely close to or considering a path that does not entail the continued qualitative and quantitative advancement of his nuclear weapons capabilities.”
“Virtually anything the North Korean regime would demand would be something that we would not and should not give,” said Tom Malinowski, the former U.S. assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor for the Obama administration, said at the same event.
He stressed that dialogue could only be used to identify each country’s respective “red lines” to prevent a dangerous miscalculation that could lead to conflict.
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