BEIJING — North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un watched a basketball game with former Chicago Bulls’ star Dennis Rodman on Thursday, Chinese state media reported.
In a dispatch from Pyongyang, China’s official Xinhua news agency said that Kim and Rodman watched a game consisting of players from North Korea and the Harlem Globetrotters, a famed goodwill team from the United States.
Xinhua, which has a bureau in the North Korean capital, cited unidentified witnesses for its account.
Rodman, a 51-year-old Hall of Famer, was quoted as calling relations between the United States and North Korea “regrettable”, though added “personally I am a friend of Marshal Kim Jong-Un and the DPRK people”.
DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s official name.
Nicknamed “The Worm” and famed for his changing hair colour, off-court antics and dating Madonna, Rodman landed in the isolated state this week with tensions high following the North’s third nuclear test earlier in February.
Rodman wore dark glasses and a hat, Xinhua said, and sat to the left of Kim. They spoke to each other without any interpretation, according to the report.
He arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday with members of the Globetrotters on a goodwill visit to engage in “basketball diplomacy”.
Kim is the son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and the grandson of the country’s founder Kim Il-Sung. He is reported to be a huge fan of basketball and the Chicago Bulls.
Rodman has been actively tweeting during the visit, saying he was looking forward to meeting Kim, that North Koreans love basketball and that he was “honoured” to represent the United States.
North Korea and the United States, an ally of South Korea, have never had diplomatic relations.
Xinhua said Thursday’s game consisted of 12 players from North Korea and four Globetrotters divided up into two teams.
The game, attended by college students, citizens of Pyongyang and foreign diplomats, among others, ended in a 110-110 tie, Xinhua said. North Korean cheerleaders in traditional dress and miniskirts performed during the break.
Separately, North Korea’s state news agency reported Thursday that Rodman and his entourage visited the landmark Pyongyang building where the bodies of Kim’s father and grandfather lie in state.
“They paid high tribute to Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il before their statues”, the Korean central News Agency said. “They entered the halls where Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il lie in state and paid homage to them.”
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