WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman has tough words directed toward President Barack Obama over the American prisoner in North Korea.
Speaking to TMZ, the 5-time NBA champion calls out the president for not acting to help Kenneth Bae, a Korean American sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor after North Korea accused him of smuggling in inflammatory literature and trying to establish a base for anti-Pyongyang activities at a border city hotel.
“Obama can’t do s***,” Rodman told TMZ. “I don’t know why he won’t do it.”
Earlier this week, Rodman attempted to use his friendship with North Korean President Kim Jong Un on Bae’s behalf, asking the leader to “do me a solid” and release the American. Rodman visited North Korea in February and apparently hit it off with Kim, a die-hard basketball fan. Pyongyang hasn’t responded to Rodman’s appeal on Twitter. Rodman said after his trip to North Korea that he planned to return in August to vacation with Kim.
“Once I go back over there August 1, I hope I can do one thing, at least get time served,” Rodman told TMZ. “It’s going to be difficult because I think his nationality, as far as background, I think there’s a whole different situation.”
The U.S. has called for the North to immediately release Bae. It relies on Swedish diplomats in Pyongyang to deal with Bae’s case because the North and the U.S. have had no formal diplomatic relations since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce instead of a peace treaty.
North Korea said in the statement that Bae “set up plot-breeding bases in different places of China for the purpose of toppling (North Korea’s) government from 2006 to October 2012 out of distrust and enmity toward the” country. “He committed such hostile acts as egging citizens of (North Korea) overseas and foreigners on to perpetrate hostile acts to bring down its government while conducting a malignant smear campaign against it. He was caught red handed.”
North Korea refers to Bae as Pae Jun Ho, the North Korean spelling for his Korean name.
Bae, a Washington state resident described by friends as a devout Christian and a tour operator, is at least the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009. The others eventually were deported or released without serving out their terms, some after trips to Pyongyang by prominent Americans, including former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. There has been no sign yet of a high-profile American envoy set to make a clemency mission to North Korea, which has only recently eased a near-daily, weekslong torrent of threats that followed greater U.N. sanctions over Pyongyang’s February nuclear test.
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