Dennis Rodman, self-described “friend for life” of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, says he knows what the man he calls “The Marshal” wants from the U.S. But he’ll only tell Donald Trump what that is.
Rodman, the retired NBA bad boy, fresh from what he characterized as a humanitarian tour of Asia to promote peace with North Korea, wants the president to make him a special peace envoy to the country headed by the dictator Trump disdains as “little rocket man,” he told The Guardian on Monday in Beijing.
“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 said. He told the newspaper, “I ain’t telling you” what it is; “I will tell him [Trump] when I see him.”
Rodman is friends with Trump and appeared on Trump’s reality TV series “Celebrity Apprentice.” Rodman endorsed Trump in the presidential election.
Rodman had hoped to travel again to Pyongang on this trip, but Trump banned all travel to North Korea in September following the death of American college student Otto Warmbier after his release from North Korean detention. Last month North Korea test-launched yet another intercontinental ballistic missile, claiming it could now strike anywhere on the U.S. mainland.
“I think a lot of people around the world … want me to go just to see if I can do something,” Rodman said.
Rodman said that as part of his basketball diplomacy he’s trying to arrange an exhibition game between North Korea and Guam, the Los Angeles Times reported. “The people in Guam are all about it. They love it,” Rodman said, despite North Korea’s escalation of threats against the U.S. territory. “You get a team from North Korea, get these guys from Pyongyang. Play it in Beijing.”
Rodman struck up a surprising friendship with Kim after arranging an exhibition basketball game with the Harlem Globetrotters in North Korea in 2013. He has returned to the country at least four times since then and has spent more time with the North Korean leader than any other American. He was roundly criticized when he visited Kim in 2014 with a group of retired basketball players for the dictator’s birthday.
Rodman was last in the country in June. He brought gifts for Kim, including a copy (not autographed) of Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal,” a copy of “Where’s Waldo: The Totally Essential Travel Collection” and autographed basketball jerseys. There was speculation at the time that Rodman was there at least in part as an emissary from Trump. Rodman said when he left for the trip that he was hoping to do “something that’s pretty positive” A national security spokesman said at the time, however, that Rodman was not representing the U.S. government nor Trump on the trip.
In March, Rodman told an audience of cadets at West Point that he considers Kim, known to kill his enemies, “just a normal guy.” Kim “told me, ‘I would love to come to America to go to a New York Knicks game.’ He actually said that to me,” recalled Rodman. “Obviously, he can’t come here or he would be dead.”
Kim is “supposed to be this bad guy,” Rodman said. “Our friendship is about sports. It’s not about politics.’’
Rodman told The Guardian that Kim is also a fan of Frank Sinatra’s music.
Rodman has said that Trump told him early in his administration that he hoped to visit North Korea. “I was in [Trump’s] office, and he said, ‘I want to go’ to North Korea.”
The Obama administration criticized Rodman’s trips to North Korea, calling them a clever publicity stunt by Kim. But Trump initially called Rodman’s trips “smart.”