Carney says Rodman's trip won't change U.S. stance on North Korea

Jan. 7, 2014 at 3:48 PM
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PYONGYANG, North Korea, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- A White House spokesman said he wouldn't "dignify" an angry outburst by ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman defending his trip to North Korea for an exhibition game.

Rodman, who has touted his friendship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was on a private trip to Pyongyang, Jay Carney said Tuesday, but U.S. views haven't changed about North Korea "and its failure to meet its obligations" or on a Korean-American held in North Korea for more than a year.

Saying he heard about Rodman's heated interview with CNN, Carney said he didn't see some of the comments and wasn't "going to dignify that outburst with a response."

He said the White House doesn't vet private travel to North Korea. Rodman did not contact White House officials about his latest trip to the reclusive country, Carney said.

Rodman, in a sometimes expletive-filled interview with CNN, angrily defended his trip to North Korea for an exhibition game, saying world could get to know the reclusive communist country better.

"It's all about the game. People love to do one thing," Rodman said Tuesday on CNN's "New Day." "This is what we are trying to do."

Rodman traveled to Pyongyang with other former NBA players for an exhibition game with North Korean players Wednesday, the birthday of Kim, who shocked the world several weeks ago by announcing the purge and execution of Kim's once-powerful uncle. Also of concern is the welfare of U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae, who's been detained there for more than a year.

Rodman told CNN the trip will help "open the door a little bit" between North Korea and the rest of the world.

Asked if he would discuss the Bae situation, Rodman intimated Bae did something wrong but did not say what, instead demanding the interviewer tell what he knew about Bae's situation. Bae, a Korean-American missionary, has been in North Korean custody for more than a year. He was sentenced in May to 15 years hard labor for "committing hostile acts" against the country.

"You tell me; you tell me," Rodman said.

During the interview, a visibly angry Rodman -- who has called Kim "my friend" -- said he didn't give a "rat's [expletive] what the hell you think" about the trip.

"You are the guy behind the mic right now," Rodman said from Pyongyang. "We're going to have to back to America and take the abuse."

Former NBA player Charles D. Smith defended Rodman, telling CNN the visit was about basketball, not politics. Smith is among the former NBA players who traveled to Pyongyang.

"We've been doing these games for 3 1/2 years," Smith said. "Outside of what people know of Dennis, you don't know Dennis. He's got a great heart, his passion is about children and families, that's why we are here. We are here because it's about doing great will around the world."

Carney said sports exchanges and sports diplomacy could be valuable and "it's something that we pursue in many places around the world, including through direct support."

"Our focus when it comes to North Korea is on sharpening the choice that that regime faces between further isolation, further economic deprivation because of its insistence upon using its resources to fund its military program and fund its nuclear ambitions, or a decision to come in line with its international obligations and taking advantage of the opportunity to rejoin the community of nations, to ease that and potentially end that isolation," Carney said.

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