Nicola Smith-The Telegraph-Fri, September 18, 2020, 5:31 AM EDT
Donald Trump, the US president, has revealed that he considered sending former basketball star Dennis Rodman as an envoy to North Korea instead of well-educated “stiffs” who graduated from top universities.
The president made the revelation after he was asked in a Thursday interview with Fox Sports Radio if he had ever discussed basketball with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, during their nuclear deal talks in 2018 and 2019.
“Well he really does like Dennis Rodman,” Mr Trump replied, referring to the retired National Basketball Association (NBA) celebrity who played for the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers among other top teams.
“I always said Dennis would be better than some of these stiffs that they used to send to get to know him. They send these people over and they went to Harvard and were great students… but they have no chemistry whatsoever.”
He added: “And I said we should maybe use him instead of somebody who graduated number one at Harvard, maybe we should use that, I thought about that.”
President Trump met with Kim Jong-un on three occasions between June 2018 in Singapore and February 2019 in Vietnam to try to reach an agreement on North Korea renouncing its nuclear and long range missiles programmes in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
The negotiations ultimately collapsed in Hanoi when both leaders walked away empty handed, and have not been revived since.
However, Reince Priebus, Mr Trump’s former chief of staff, predicted during a South Korean forum this week that there will be a “deal of some sort” with Pyongyang that includes an “incremental concession” should Trump win reelection in November, reported the Yonhap news wire.
Rodman was never given a formal role in the US-North Korea peace talks despite his well-documented friendship with Kim, who is said to have been a basketball fanatic since childhood.
Kim invited him to Pyongyang for the first time in March 2013, where he courted controversy by hugging the authoritarian leader and telling him “you have a friend for life.”
During a January 2014 trip, Rodman was criticised again after he sang “Happy Birthday” to Kim on the basketball court and appeared to bow to the North Korean leader.