White House dismisses N.K. leader's informal offer of phone talks with Obama
Published : 2013-03-05 09:41
Updated : 2013-03-05 09:41
The White House scoffed Monday at reports that North Korea's young leader hopes for a phone conversation with President Barack Obama.
"The United States has direct channels of communications with the DPRK (North Korea)," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at a press briefing.
Instead of spending money on celebrity sporting events to entertain his nation's elite, he stressed, the North Korean regime should focus on the well-being of its own people, who suffer from starvation and human rights abuses.
Carney was responding to former NBA player Dennis Rodman's comments in a television talk show that North Korea's Kim Jong-un "wants Obama to do one -- call him."
Rodman made a trip to Pyongyang last week on a civilian basketball exchange program. He became the first American to formally meet the North Korean ruler, believed to be in his late 20s and a big fan of basketball.
The White House official said Kim's decisions have been disappointing in light of Obama's calls for peace and cooperation.
The State Department also urged Pyongyang to stop issuing words that carry "no meaning."
"They know how to get in touch with us," Patrick Ventrell, the department's acting deputy spokesman, told reporters.
Carney and Ventrell were apparently referring to the North Korean mission to the U.N., dubbed the "New York channel."
"Quite frankly, North Korean words and stunts such as this have no meaning," he said. "What matters is the actions they take, and they need to come in line with their international obligations."
Ventrell reiterated that his department has no intention of reaching out to Rodman for information on his visit to the secretive nation.
"We welcome those who want to get in touch with us after a visit to North Korea," he said. "We take the call, but we haven't been in touch."
Some reporters in the briefing took issue with the department's lukewarm stance.
"Given the fact that you have zero relations with this regime, and no American diplomat has ever met with the guy....why wouldn't you want every little nugget of information that you could possibly get from anybody that's been in a room with this guy?" a reporter asked.
Ventrell stated again that Washington has yet to see indications that the North Korean leader is averting a confrontational course.
Another reporter asked why the Obama administration didn't appoint Rodman as ambassador to Pyongyang, generating a burst of laughter. Rodman has described the North Korean leader as a "good friend."
Experts view Kim's invitation of Rodman as intended to signal his interest in resuming U.S.-North Korea bilateral exchanges.
"Kim Jong-un used his 'summit' with Dennis Rodman and the Harlem Globetrotters to send a high-profile signal to the Basketball Fan-in-Chief in the White House that he expected that DPRK-U.S. sports exchange would be activated, contributing to promoting mutual understanding between the people of the two countries," said Alexandre Mansourov, a U.S. expert on North Korea. (Yonhap News)