Dennis Rodman's visit to North Korea may not be making headlines the same way it did in past years — it's currently his fifth trip to Pyongyang — but a bizarre exchange certainly caught the media's attention. Rodman gifted Kim Jong-Un Trump's Art of the Deal, the president's book that earned him the reputation as a skilled negotiator.
For most world leaders, receiving a gift like this from a renowned celebrity could be taken as a joke. But it may not be the case coming from the former NBA star. The retired basketball player has a penchant for making unusual friends — including the North Korean leader, Kim, and — surprise! — President Donald Trump.
Rodman has made headlines for years thanks to his close relationship with the North Korean leader. In 2014, Rodman's visit included a personal rendition of "Happy Birthday" to Kim from the basketball court; he even called the young leader his "best friend." That's hard to forget, even with all the news coming out of the politically isolated country.
Rodman is also known for being a participant on Trump's Celebrity Apprentice. The former-reality-TV-star-turned-president was his boss for two whole seasons. Rodman considers the president a friend — even though he was "fired" from the show for misspelling the name of Trump's wife, Melania. In 2015 when Trump announced his candidacy, Rodman endorsed him for president, tweeting that he "has been a great friend for many years."
While the State Department has said that Rodman's visit is in no way an official visit, Rodman has offered on Twitter to be an intermediary between the two countries before. In Beijing before boarding his flight to Pyongyang, reporters asked Rodman if he had spoken with Trump before the visit.
"Well, I'm pretty sure he's pretty much happy with the fact that I'm over here trying to accomplish something that we both need," Rodman told them.
Rodman has been in the country since Tuesday. That's the same day Otto Warmbier, who was one of North Korea's American prisoners, was flown home to his parents. The 22-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate was just over a year into a 15-year sentence for hard labor for "hostile acts;" he was accused of stealing a propaganda poster. North Korea explained he was released on humanitarian grounds as he had contracted botulism and had been in a coma for much of his detention. When he landed in Ohio Tuesday, he was taken by ambulance to University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Rodman said that Warmbier's release was "not my purpose right now" for visiting North Korea. So instead, he is gifting books to the country's leader. Though unlikely, perhaps Kim will read it ahead of potential talks with the U.S. to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.