Dennis the menace?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and former NBA star Dennis Rodman watch an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and former NBA star Dennis Rodman watch an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang.

PYONGYANG – Ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman hung out today with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un on the third day of his improbable journey to Pyongyang, watching the Harlem Globetrotters with the leader and later dining on sushi and drinking with him at his palace.

“You have a friend for life,” Rodman told Kim before a crowd of thousands at a gymnasium where they sat side by side, chatting as they watched players from North Korea and the US play.

Rodman arrived in Pyongyang on Monday with three members of the professional Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, VICE media company correspondent Ryan Duffy and a production crew to shoot an episode on North Korea for a new weekly HBO series.

The unlikely encounter makes Rodman the most high-profile American to meet Kim since the young North Korean leader took power in December 2011, and takes place against a backdrop of tension between Washington and Pyongyang.

North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test just two weeks ago, making clear the provocative act was a warning to the United States to drop what it considers a “hostile” policy toward the North.

Kim, a diehard basketball fan, told the former Chicago Bulls star he hoped the visit would break the ice between the United States and North Korea, VICE founder Shane Smith said.

Dressed in a blue Mao suit, Kim laughed and slapped his hands on the table before him during the game as he sat nearly knee to knee with Rodman.

Kim and Rodman chatted in English, but Kim primarily spoke in Korean through a translator, Smith said after speaking to the VICE crew in Pyongyang.

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