Dennis Rodman isn’t too worried about war with North Korea.
The former Chicago Bulls star, who considers both President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to be his friends, says he thinks the two world leaders are pretty similar — and are bluffing in their heated rhetoric about their readiness for a potential nuclear conflict that could kill millions.
In an interview with the news service AFP, Rodman said he believes Trump and Kim "are pretty much the same people."
"They love control," he said.
In his interview, Rodman appeared unfazed about the possibility of armed conflict breaking out between the US and North Korea, characterizing the countries’ threats against each other as "entertainment.”
"Ain't nobody got no finger on the button," he said.
Rodman became famous in the ’90s for his skills on the basketball court and sartorial flair, but he’s since garnered a great deal of attention for his work as a freelance diplomat. He has visited North Korea five times in the past five years, forming a personal bond with Kim and deliberately positioning himself as an informal peace broker between the US and a hermetic nation he believes is misunderstood. He’s even asked Trump to appoint him as a formal peace envoy to North Korea (Trump hasn’t done so).
During his interview with AFP, Rodman called Kim a “21st century guy,” describing him as boxed in by the autocratic system he inherited from his family and more forward-thinking than commonly believed.
"[Kim] is in a position where he probably wants to do a lot of things that are really positive," Rodman said. "I think that the structure of the system just don't let him do it. I've seen that. You see him be happy, and then, all of a sudden you see him pull back. He wants to pull that trigger where he wants to let his people be more free."
Dennis Rodman is one of the only Americans who loves Kim Jong Un
Rodman has in the past played exhibition games in North Korea to mark Kim’s birthday, and has shared tales of drinking games and karaoke with the infamously brutal leader. But the trips haven’t always gone swimmingly — his struggles with substance abuse were reportedly on full display during a trip in 2014, when he started binge drinking and, as the Guardian put it, “veering between singing jovial karaoke one minute and angry hollering the next.” Kim apparently refused to meet with him by the end of his stay because he was continually intoxicated.
Rodman wants to make a sixth trip to Pyongyang but says US officials declined the offer. “Basically they said it’s not a good time right now,” he told the Guardian in an interview published Monday.
Still, the former NBA star has big plans for the future. He’s planning to arrange a basketball game between players from North Korea and the US territory of Guam to be held in Beijing. And he wants to make a documentary and write a book about his relationship with Kim during his next visit to North Korea — assuming that ever happens.
The US has banned Americans from traveling to North Korea in the wake of the death of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who died this summer upon returning to the US after being held in captivity in North Korea for more than a year.
Rodman, who is willing to talk about pretty much any topic under the sun, took partial credit for Warmbier’s release.