When it comes to sports, Kim Jong-un seems to forget all about his bitterness towards America.
The young dictator, of the most mysterious communist regime in the world, is all set to welcome a group of NBA (the famous US-based National Basketball Association) players, selected by NBA legend and Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, for a game scheduled for Kim's birthday on 8 January in Pyongyang.
It is widely known that Kim shares a deep comradeship with Rodman, who often visits North Korea. Rodman made his latest visit to the reclusive country shortly before Christmas, when he was tasked to train the North Korean basketball team.
Rodman will lead the 'American team' (though political barrier might preclude them from being called so) that includes former NBA stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker. Also in the team are the likes of Doug Christie, Charles Smith and Craig Hodges.
The team will play a friendly against North Korea senior national team. Rodman, in an interview with NBA.com, called the game an account of his "basketball diplomacy."
"We are all looking forward to arriving in Pyongyang, meeting the citizens, visiting various charities and using the opportunity to develop new relationships that result in our annual return," he said.
Rodman has called Kim a "friend of life," and has often reiterated that he would avoid mixing politics with friendship, while many political thinkers have eyed him as a potential diplomat, in cementing North Korea's differences with the US and allies.
Kim has, in the past, gone to the extent of warning Washington and its ally Seoul with a nuclear attack threat. He warned that he would reduce the two cities to a "sea of fire", angered by additional sanctions slapped against Pyongyang for its notorious underground detonation of a nuclear device, back in February last year.
Strong words have regularly been exchanged between North Korea and the US, while the world has often been intrigued with the "bellicose rhetoric" North frequently uses to express its hatred towards "American imperialism".
The recent execution of Kim's uncle Jang Song-theak has left the western world in horror with the US officials calling it "another example of North's brutality". The young leader's uncle was charged with grotesque crimes like womanizing, doing drugs, squandering funds, plotting to overthrow the nation and - in one funny instance - 'clapping half-heartedly' for the leader.
North Korea is an extremely secretive nation that world leaders, political analysts and journalists alike have been pining to learn more about. It is interesting to note how the world of sports seems to get such an easy and effortless access inside the country.
It remains to be seen how far sports - the only thing that Kim considers worth welcoming in his country - can go to create smiles in North Korea; a nation where there is not much reason to smile about anymore.
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