Eccentric basketball star Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea for his latest visit on Tuesday, and promptly captured the rapt attention of American media by presenting dictator Kim Jong-un with a copy of Donald Trump’s 1987 book The Art of the Deal.
Rodman was not able to meet with Kim personally yet, so he was obliged to pass his gift through North Korean Sports Minister Kim Il-guk. The minister was also laden with two autographed basketball jerseys, soap sets, a mermaid jigsaw puzzle, and a copy of Where’s Waldo?, according to the Washington Post.
The Post is convinced the puzzle and Where’s Waldo? book are intended for Kim’s daughter, who Rodman “held when she was a baby during a previous visit.” However, U.S. intelligence on the Kim regime is notoriously spotty, so we do not know if Kim Jong-un has ever been able to find Waldo, or what Kim might do to Waldo after finding him.
Great fun is had by the WaPo comparing the negotiating styles of Kim and Trump, with tongue-in-cheek warnings that Rodman might be giving away secret insights to the president’s mind by encouraging Kim to read The Art of the Deal. In all seriousness, North Korea’s dictator and his intelligence services have probably already read it. Despite the extensive sanctions against the North Korean regime, it can get American books if it wants. There could be a copy of Hard Choices propping up the short leg of a coffee table in Kim’s palace right now. We just don’t know.
The Washington Post is one of many outlets to speculate that Rodman is working for Trump as an unofficial ambassador to North Korea, even though the U.S. State Department has insisted he is visiting Pyongyang as a private citizen. Many cite Rodman’s status as one of the few people in the world who knows both Kim and Trump personally.
A U.S. national security spokesman assured CNN on Thursday that “Rodman was not acting as a representative of the US government or President Donald Trump and stated that he does not believe the President has spoken to Rodman since he entered office.”
The spokesman also said there was no connection between Rodman’s visit and the release of American hostage Otto Warmbier, who was freed after 17 months of captivity on the same day Rodman landed in Pyongyang.
The Chicago Tribune answers another lingering question by stating that the copy of Art of the Deal Rodman gave North Korea was not autographed by Donald Trump.
Rodman’s trip has thus far included sightseeing and spending time with North Korean athletes, including remarks to the North Korean Olympic team that sound a bit awkward in the Chicago Tribune’s transcription:
All of you guys should be proud of yourselves, because, you know, a lot of people don’t give you guys credit, because this is such a small country, and not many people from North Korea can compete around the world,” Rodman said.
He continued: “But for you guys to come back here in your country, with a medal, that says a lot about North Korea, because people don’t really take North Korea so seriously about sports or anything like that.
Indeed, as Rodman said, not many people from North Korea are allowed to leave, and it’s remarkable that any of them come back. Coming back with medals is vastly preferable to coming back without them.