Dennis Rodman set out for North Korea to conduct some more of his "basketball diplomacy", while the Hermit Kingdom proceeds unabated in testing its missile technology.
The basketball superstar, as eccentric of a personality as he is, has managed to cultivate an enduring friendship with the young Kim Jong Un, who is supposedly a big fan of the sport and that player in particular. Rodman last visited North Korea during the Obama years on a goodwill visit which many interpreted as intended to jumpstart talks between the two countries. Although his trip ultimately yielded nothing of tangible political benefit, it nevertheless solidified the friendship between the North Korean leader and the American basketball player, which is now being put to use as part of an implied policy of ‘parallel diplomacy’.
Rodman’s trip to North Korea couldn’t come at a more sensitive time, as newly elected South Korean leader Moon Jai-In warned that the situation is “more dire than ever”. North Korea has blatantly ignored UNSC sanctions against its missile program and is continuing to test the said technology without pause. It seems like with each passing week there’s another fear mongering story in the Western Mainstream Media about how North Korea is supposedly preparing to launch a nuclear strike against the US, and while such yellow press stories are certainly hyperbolic, they still capture the hysteria surrounding this situation. Even so, despite the legitimate reasons that all sides have to be alarmed, there’s still a chance – however slim – for a breakthrough to occur.
Rodman’s trip coincides with North Korea releasing an imprisoned American student, proving that substantial diplomatic efforts have been ongoing behind the scenes between Washington and Pyongyang. Moreover, South Korea announced that it is delaying the deployment of the US’ THAAD anti-missile system until a full environmental assessment is conducted. This temporarily lessens the pressure on North Korea, but also on China and Russia too, which are seriously concerned that the Pentagon is using Pyongyang as a pretext to diminish their nuclear second strike capabilities. Therefore, Rodman’s ‘parallel diplomacy’ is taking place at a special time when a brief window of opportunity has opened up due to the alignment of several factors and the presumed willingness of Pyongyang to peacefully settle this dispute.
To discuss this in more detail, we are joined by Bevin Chu, former columnist on Sino-US relations for Lew Rockwell.com and Antiwar.com, also the son of TK Chu, former Vice Ambassador from the Republic of China to Saudi Arabia. Also on the line with us is Dr. Leonid A. Petrov, Visiting Fellow, Australian National University.
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