- (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)
After last week's visit to North Korea, former NBA star Dennis Rodman says Kim Jong Un, one of the world's most mysterious and dangerous men, is his friend and told him he wants President Obama to call him to avoid war.
"…I sat with him for two days… And one thing he [Kim] asked me to give Obama… something to say and do one thing. He wants Obama to do one thing, call him," Rodman, the first known American to publicly meet with the North Korean leader told George Stephanopoulos on ABC News "This Week" on Sunday.
The basketball star is being seen as having more first-hand knowledge of Kim Jong Un – who took charge of the totalitarian nation after the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il, in 2011 – than even the CIA.
"He wants a call from President Obama?" Stephanopoulos sought to confirm. "That's right. He told me that," the athlete replied of one of the world's most mysterious and dangerous men. "He said, if you can, Dennis, I don't want to do war. I don't want to do war. He said that to me."
Rodman said he didn't ask Kim to call Obama because "it's a different story." "Guess what, the kid is only 28 years old, 28. He's not his dad. He's not his grandpa. He's 28 years old."
Rodman, however, did give an advice to Kim. "Guess what, the one thing I said to him… if you see the clips or whatever, he loves basketball. And I said, Obama loves basketball, let's start there, all right? Start there. …Both of you guys love basketball so much."
Rodman visited Pyongyang with members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team and a camera crew from the upcoming HBO series, "VICE," without any involvement of the U.S. State Department. Kim reportedly extended a warm welcomed to them, with an itinerary that included ice skating, an aquarium visit and a long dinner and drinks. In his speech to a basketball crowd, the athlete said, Kim's grandfather and his father "were great leaders."
Kim is "very humble," Rodman told ABC on Sunday. "As a kid he's very humble… he's very strong as a man… But guess what, he don't want war. That's one thing he don't want."
The athlete said he found in North Korea that people respect Kim and his family. "They're great leaders there."
Rodman also said Kim's statement in the past that he would destroy the United States is "coming from his father. I think as a young man, I mean, he don't want anything…" He added: "He does one thing, he loves -- he loves power. He loves control. Because others, you know, dad and stuff like that, but he just – he's a great guy. He's just a great guy."
When reminded that Kim put 200,000 people in prison camps, Rodman responded by suggesting that America also does that. "We don't have prison camps, guess what, this is all politics, right? …he don't want to do that… But you know what, it's more like it – I'm not like a diplomat, I don't want to do that…"
The young leader of the North has flouted U.N. sanctions and continues to develop nuclear arms and missile program, threatening they are to target the United States. He is also responsible for starvation of millions of his own people. But Rodman went on to say that Kim is "a good guy to me… he's my friend… I don't condone what he does, but as far as a person to person, he's my friend. But as far as what he does, you deal with it."
But "a murderer who is your friend is still a murderer," Stephanopoulos commented. "It's just like we do over here in America, right?" Rodman said. "What I did was history…"
The athlete said he was "going to go back and do one thing and find out more what's really going on. Find out more [as a friend]."
Stephanopoulos asked Rodman if he would share the latest report from the Human Rights Watch, which outlines North Korea's "dire human rights record" under Kim, with him during his next visit. Rodman accepted it, and added, "Don't hate me. Don't hate me. Guess what? Don't hate me."