The White House insisted Dennis Rodman and other former NBA players in North Korea playing an exhibition basketball game for dictator Kim Jong Un's birthday does not change U.S. policy toward the country, but did say “athletic exchanges” can be helpful.
Dennis Rodman speaks with fellow US basketball players during a team meeting at a Pyongyang, North Korea hotel Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
Asked about the Rodman visit on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he has not talked to President Barack Obama about it.
“Mr. Rodman is on a private trip and our views about North Korea failure to meet its obligations have not changed,” Canrey said. “We remain gravely concerned about Kenneth Bae and we urge DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) to grant his amnesty and release on humanitarian grounds.”
Kenneth Bae is the American being held captive in a North Korean prison. Rodman recently asserted on CNN that Bae is at fault for his captivity.
“The one thing about politics. Kenneth Bae did one thing. If you understand what Kenneth Bae did. Do you understand what he did in this country?” Rodman said.
Carney said he did not want to dignify Rodman's assertion about Bae with a response.
“This is travel that is private by nature and we do not vet private travel,” Carney said. “We have not been contacted by Mr. Rodman about this trip or his prior trip. The U.S. government does not vet U.S. citizens private travel.”
Carney was also asked if anything good can come from Rodman's visit.
“Athletic exchanges can be valuable. Sports diplomacy can be valuable and its something that we pursue in many places around the world including through direct support,” Carney said.
“But this is a private trip,” Carney continued. “Our focus is on sharpening the choice that that regime faces between further isolation, further economic deprivation, because of its insistence to use its resources to fund their military program and fund its nuclear ambitions or a decision to come in line with its international obligations and taking advantage of the opportunity to rejoin the community of nations and potentially end that isolation.”
The other NBA stars doing the North Korea game reportedly include former New York Knicks player Charles Smith and former Seattle Super Sonics star Vin Baker.
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