Sunday October 4th, 2015 3:38PM

Leaving NKorea, Rodman calls Kims 'great leaders'

By The Associated Press
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- Ending his unexpected round of basketball diplomacy in North Korea on Friday, ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman called leader Kim Jong Un an "awesome guy" and said his father and grandfather were "great leaders."

Rodman, the highest-profile American to meet Kim since he inherited power from father Kim Jong Il in 2011, watched a basketball game with the authoritarian leader Thursday and later drank and dined on sushi with him.

At Pyongyang's Sunan airport on his way to Beijing, Rodman said it was "amazing" that the North Koreans were "so honest." He added that Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, North Korea's founder, "were great leaders."

"He's proud, his country likes him - not like him, love him, love him," Rodman said of Kim Jong Un. "Guess what, I love him. The guy's really awesome."

At Beijing's airport, Rodman pushed past waiting journalists without saying anything.

Rodman's visit to North Korea began Monday and took place amid 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.

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

Kim, a diehard basketball fan, told the former Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls star that he hoped the visit would break the ice between the United States and North Korea, said Shane Smith, founder of the New York-based VICE media company.

Dressed in a blue Mao suit, Kim laughed and slapped his hands on a table during the game at Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium as he sat nearly knee to knee with Rodman. Rodman, the man who once turned up in a wedding dress to promote his autobiography, wore a dark suit and dark sunglasses, but still had on his nose rings and other piercings. A can of Coca-Cola sat on the table before him in photos shared with AP by VICE.

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

Thursday's game ended in a 110-110 tie, with two Americans playing on each team alongside North Koreans. After the game, Rodman addressed Kim in a speech before a crowd of tens of thousands of North Koreans and told him, "You have a friend for life," VICE spokesman Alex Detrick told AP.

At an "epic feast" later, the leader plied the group with food and drinks and round after round of toasts were made, Duffy said in an email to AP.

Duffy said he invited Kim to visit the United States, a proposal met with hearty laughter from the North Korean leader.

Kim said he hoped sports exchanges would promote "mutual understanding between the people of the two countries," the official Korean Central News Agency said.

North Korea and the U.S. fought on opposite sides of the three-year Korean War, which ended in a truce in 1953. The foes never signed a peace treaty, and do not have diplomatic relations.

Rodman's trip is the second attention-grabbing American visit this year to North Korea. Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, made a four-day trip in January to Pyongyang, but did not meet the North Korean leader.

The Obama administration had frowned on the trip by Schmidt, who was accompanied by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, but has avoided criticizing Rodman's outing, saying it's about sports.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Bartus, Icemen shuts out Gwinnett
Garrett Bartus pitched a 42 save shutout, as the Evansville IceMen topped the Gwinnett Gladiators on a New year
10:23PM ( 1 year ago )
Gator Bowl Preview Capsule
A rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31 in Orlando.
8:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Millsap's 34 leads Hawks past Celtics
Paul Millsap had season highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 92-91 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday afternoon.
7:44PM ( 1 year ago )
Falcons fire offensive, defensive line coaches
The Atlanta Falcons have fired defensive line coach Ray Hamilton and offensive line coaches Pat Hill and Paul Dunn.
7:02PM ( 1 year ago )
Best, worst of Falcons' 4-12 season
Best Game: They'd been eliminated from playoff contention previous week vs. New Orleans, but the Falcons showed some heart with Dec. 1 overtime victory over Bills in Toronto.
6:21PM ( 1 year ago )
Gonzalez's career ends with another Falcons loss
Tony Gonzalez is ready for the next chapter of his life.
9:47PM ( 1 year ago )
Professional Sports
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Ethics laws set to take effect Jan. 1 in Georgia
After dominating much of the legislative session, a set of major ethics reforms is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
7:04PM ( 1 year ago )
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Short practices are intense for Chase bubble drivers
With intermittent rain playing havoc with the racing schedule at Dover International Speedway, Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup contestants scrambled to learn as much as they could during two short practice sessions at the Monster Mile.
By Reid Spencer-NASCAR Wire Service
8:00AM ( 7 hours ago )
Watkinsville's Townley scores first Truck Series win at Las Vegas
John Wes Townley collected his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Saturday night, saving just enough fuel during his final run to win the Rhino Linings 350.
By Owen A. Kearns-Special to NASCAR Wire Service
2:20AM ( 13 hours ago )
Fittipaldi, Barbosa capture Prototype title at Petit Le Mans
Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa – with an assist by IndyCar star Sebastien Bourdais – overcame treacherous weather conditions on Saturday at Road Atlanta, using a Prototype (P) class victory in the rain-shortened 18th edition of the Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda to clinch their second consecutive TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
By Nate Siebens
1:31AM ( 14 hours ago )
Watson leads No. 22 Clemson over Notre Dame
Former Gainesville High standout Deshaun Watson threw for two touchdowns, ran for a third, and Clemson's defense stopped DeShone Kizer on a tying two-point conversion as the 12th-ranked Tigers held on to beat No. 6 Notre Dame 24-22 on Saturday night.
By The Associated Press
12:28AM ( 15 hours ago )
Tide rolls over Dogs in a rout
Jake Coker ran the offense to perfection, the defense turned in a dominating performance, and No. 13 Alabama even got a touchdown from its special teams Saturday in a 38-10 rout of No. 8 Georgia that re-established the Crimson Tide as a force in the national race.
By The Associated Press
11:59PM ( 15 hours ago )