The U.S. State Department is embarrassed by former NBA star Dennis Rodman's repeated trips to North Korea this year, according to Dennis Halpin of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
In an article in the Weekly Standard, Halpin criticized Rodman's eccentric one-man campaign to open up North Korea. "Rodman seems to think his 'basketball diplomacy' is following in the footsteps of the 'ping pong diplomacy' that broke the ice in Sino-American relations over four decades ago. But such is clearly not the case," Halpin wrote. "They appear, in fact, to be nothing more than ding dong diplomacy."
"Ding dong" seems to be a slang term for the penis, taking a jab at Rodman for buddying around with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on his yachts and private island.
Halpin recalls how Rodman, after his second trip to the North in September, described the week he and Kim spent on the island jet skiing and riding horses and surrounded by available women in a "world worthy of Marie Antoinette."
"It is unlikely that poor old Uncle Jang [Song-taek], no matter to what degree he was guilty of boozing and womanizing, ever spent a week like the one which Dennis Rodman described," Halpern comments.
Meanwhile, in an interview with the AP's Pyongyang bureau reporter on Sunday, Rodman said he is not going to meet Kim during his current visit but just wants to coach the North Korean basketball team.
The irony of a country embracing basketball where millions suffer stunted growth from malnutrition appears to be lost on the 2.01 m tall ex-athlete.