Monday 18 November 2019

Kim's friend Rodman may play role at summit

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un who are due to meet for a historic summit in Singapore next week. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un who are due to meet for a historic summit in Singapore next week. Photo: Reuters
Ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman. Photo: Reuters

Rachael Alexander

Dennis Rodman, the former NBA basketball player, will reportedly be in Singapore at the time of the highly anticipated summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un next week.

The former Chicago Bulls player, who is one of the few Westerners to have met the North Korean dictator, will arrive in the country on Monday, a day before the meeting between the US president and the North Korean leader, the 'New York Post' reported. It added that Rodman may even play a role in high-stakes talks.

"No matter what you might think about his presence, one thing's for sure, the ratings will be huge," a source told the newspaper.

"A lot of times in situations that involve complex diplomacy countries like to identify ambassadors of goodwill and, whether you agree with it or not, Dennis Rodman fits the bill."

The heavily tattooed Rodman has developed an unlikely relationship with North Korea's leader since making his first trip in March 2013, when he declared Mr Kim a "friend for life".

Describing the trips as "basketball diplomacy", he said during his latest trip in June, last year that he was "just trying to open a door" with his visit.

Darren Prince, Rodman's representative, told the 'New York Post' that a trip to Singapore had not been confirmed but that he would be willing to go if his expertise were needed. "He's talked about it, but no final plans have been made," he said.

The speculation comes as former UK foreign ministers who covered Asia have warned that Kim Jong-Un is unlikely to give up North Korea's nuclear weapons, despite his summit with Mr Trump.

Speaking to 'The Daily Telegraph', the ex-ministers said they were "extremely sceptical" of the chance of a breakthrough and feared the regime was playing similar games as in the past.

Dame Margaret Beckett, the former foreign secretary, said it was "hard to believe" that Mr Kim will give away his weapons - while Lord Malloch-Brown, the foreign minister overseeing Asia between 2007 and 2009, predicted it would not happen.

Their fears are a stark contrast to Mr Trump, who has talked up the chance of denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula amid warming diplomatic relations this year.

The US president is even considering inviting Mr Kim to his Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida if talks go well, according to Bloomberg - though he is willing to walk out of the summit if things go sour.

Asked if Mr Kim was willing to give up the nuclear weapons that his family has been striving to develop over decades of rule, former UK Foreign Office figures expressed pessimism.

Lord Malloch-Brown said: "No. The examples of Libya will hold back Kim and there will also be spoilers on Trump's own team. If President Trump's word was predictable and trustworthy it might come down differently, at least for Kim."

Dame Margaret, foreign secretary between 2006 and 2007, said she can "completely understand people being sceptical" and urged the US president to "approach with caution".

"I think it is right not to turn down the opportunity, but it's also right to be very conscious of what you're doing and the risks," she said.

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, unable to meet North Korea's leader himself, is heading to Washington to try to make sure President Trump doesn't overlook Japan's security and other concerns at the US-North Korea summit.

Mr Abe will have less than two hours to make his points to Mr Trump at the White House today, before both go to Canada for a two-day G-7 summit starting tomorrow, and the American president then flies to Singapore for his June 12 meeting with Kim.

Japan, which relied on the US for its post-World War II diplomacy and security, has been absent in the recent burst of engagement with North Korea.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have both met Mr Kim twice, as Mr Abe waits his turn to raise Japan's concerns directly

© Daily Telegraph, London

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