Dennis Rodman was a phenomenal basketball player, but he could learn a thing or two about the game of international diplomacy. Rodman has recently taken fire for a bizarre trip to North Korea to meet with leader Kim Jong Un. If you were to guess that the first American to meet face to face with Un since he took reins of North Korea would be the former Bulls forward, you should buy a lottery ticket. What, if anything, does Rodman’s visit mean for one of the most precarious foreign relationships today?
After the visit, Rodman appeared on George Stephanopoulos and defended Un as his “friend” and a “great guy.” Stephanopoulos was quick to probe Rodman on North Korea’s hostile overtures toward the United States and their abysmal record on human rights. Rodman, who was most recently in the public eye as a contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice, brushed off the atrocities and focused on Un’s friendliness towards him. Criticism was swift, including Secretary of State John Kerry’s apt statement: “Dennis Rodman was a great basketball player, and as a diplomat, he was a great basketball player.”
Rodman’s foreign policy faux pas couldn’t have come at a more interesting time. Rodman’s visit comes at the heels of a successful North Korean missile test, which was met with worldwide condemnation. Consensus is growing that stricter sanctions may be necessary to protect America and South Korea from attack. On the other hand, Kim Jong Un might be easier to negotiate with than the previous North Korean leader and Un’s father, Kim Jong Il. He is much more familiar with the West than his father was, having gone to boarding school in Europe. A fan of American basketball (the impetus behind the Rodman visit) as well as Hollywood, Washington might have a new avenue to get Un to the negotiating table.
One thing is for certain, however: Rodman should not have a seat at that table.