North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a known NBA fanatic, requested that the U.S. include “famous” basketball players to be part of the denuclearization deal.
Kim reportedly wanted for the U.S. to send the players as part of the cultural exchange to “normalize relations” between the two countries moving forward, two U.S. officials revealed.
He made the request in writing ahead of his upcoming summit with President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam, even insisting at one point that it be included in the joint statement on denuclearization.
According to the officials, the North Korean government also made a request for the exchange of orchestras with the U.S.
“While we did not reach an agreement with the DPRK [North Korea] at Hanoi, we exchanged detailed positions and narrowed the gap on a number of issues,” a State Department official told ABC News in a statement.
Their second summit, also held in Hanoi last February, was considered a failure as no deal was reached between the two countries.
Trump backed off the negotiations table after he said Kim Jong Un’s demands for sanctions relief did not match with America’s request for total denuclearization of North Korea.
Kim’s affinity for the sport of basketball and basketball celebrities is no secret and “basketball diplomacy” has been suggested in the past to be able to reach an agreement with him.
Kim, a Chicago Bulls diehard fan, said he has loved playing basketball since attending boarding school in Switzerland. He said he would often wear a Chicago Bulls sweatshirt and Nike sneakers.
The Washington Post previously reported that State Department officials under the Obama administration considered sending basketball players to North Korea to initiate diplomatic efforts.
Kim Jong Un befriended Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman when the retired player visited Pyongyang in March 2013.
He also brought three Harlem Globetrotters players with him and helped in training a national team.