Kim Jong-un is once again playing host to Dennis Rodman. The United States basketball player, though on a private sojourn to the Stalinist state, has stirred the media over his possible role as an emissary to build bridges between Pyongyang and Washington.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Apparently, before flying off to Pyongyang from Beijing, Rodman said he will be meeting his “best friend,” who is a great fan, and his visit is merely part of basketball diplomacy tour.

So far so good! The reclusive leader, however, had agreed to host Rodman just days after refusing a formal diplomatic request from the U.S. special envoy for North Korean rights. He wanted to talk with Kim about the fate of jailed Korean-American Kenneth Bae, who is facing a sentence for illegally entering the country and allegedly plotting to topple the regime. Thus, this faceoff speaks for itself.

As they say in diplomacy, too many explanations also make it smell a rat. So is the case here. Though it would not be appropriate to get judgmental in this case, nonetheless, it goes without saying that while Kim is eager to reach out to the corridors of power in the White House, Rodman can inevitably help broker that deal.

Rodman’s credentials speak for him, as he remains the most high-profile American to meet Kim since the leader took over after his father died in 2011. It is also a fact that Kim had expressed his personal desire to Rodman, in his previous visit, to be invited by Barack Obama and nurse his dream of rubbing shoulders with the who’s who in Washington.

If ping-pong diplomacy could broker the world’s greatest diplomatic thaw between China and the United States in the 1970s — through the auspices of Pakistan — what is stopping a repeat now between Pyongyang and Washington?

Rodman can take a lesson or two from Henry Kissinger’s yesteryears policies — and help Kim and Obama opt for a handshake over a game of basketball anywhere in the world! Let sportsmanship triumph in the midst of brinkmanship.

— The Khaleej Times, Dubai, Sept. 4

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