By Megan Wilson - 03/03/13 04:10 PM EST
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman, back from a trip to North Korea, said the nation’s reclusive leader wanted President Obama to pick up the phone and call him.
Kim Jong Un "wants Obama to do one thing: call him,” former Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday on “This Week.”
Rodman’s visit comes amid heightened tensions between North Korea and the United States.
The nation last month conducted its third nuclear test and has increased its rhetoric against the U.S. and South Korea, threatening Washington with “miserable destruction” if the allies proceed with planned military exercises.
Despite the threats, President Obama vowed to impose further sanctions on the country, whose citizens already suffer from crippling economic and social conditions, in attempt to isolate the regime. North Korea has said it intends to move forward with more long-range rocket and nuclear weapon testing.
The administration has faced criticism from GOP lawmakers who have urged a tougher approach against Kim.
Administration officials also acknowledge there is still much they do not know about the new North Korean leader, who assumed power in 2011 and his intentions.
The State Department, though, has sought to distance itself from the basketball star’s trip, saying it has no plans to de-brief the star following his return.
Rodman has spent more time with Kim since any other American since he succeeded his leader as father.
“There is nobody at the CIA who can tell you more personally about Kim Jong Un than Dennis Rodman, and that in itself is scary,” said Col. Steve Ganyard, former deputy assistant secretary of state to ABC.
“That’s not scary,” Rodman joked after being shown Ganyard’s comments.
Rodman suggested that the North Korean leader had been misunderstood and did not seek conflict with Washington.
“He said, ‘If you can, Dennis – I don’t want [to] do war. I don’t want to do war.’ He said that to me,” Rodman said.