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Kerry dismisses basketball star's North Korea visit

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a news conference with Prince Saud al-Faisal (not pictured) at the Ministry of Foreign Affa
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a news conference with Prince Saud al-Faisal (not pictured) at the Ministry of Foreign Affa

DOHA (Reuters) - Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday brushed off a visit to North Korea by former basketball great Dennis Rodman, suggesting the sportsman was no diplomat.

Rodman emerged from four days in North Korea on Friday, calling the leader of the reclusive country, Kim Jong-un, "an awesome kid".

The five-times NBA champion known for his tattoos, body piercings and flamboyance was there to film a sports documentary, and watched a basketball game alongside Kim.

Kerry was asked if it was helpful for Rodman to have visited North Korea, which routinely denounces U.S. "hostility", and whether it undercut pressure on Pyongyang over a nuclear test last month that drew condemnation from world powers.

"You know what? Dennis Rodman was a great basketball player, and as a diplomat, he was a great basketball player. And that's where we'll leave it," Kerry told NBC's Andrea Mitchell in an interview in Qatar on his first trip as secretary of state.

Kim told Rodman over dinner that he hoped further sports exchanges would promote "mutual understanding between peoples of the two countries", the Chinese government news agency Xinhua reported.

Before leaving Pyongyang, Rodman told Xinhua that Kim "is like his grandfather and his father, who are great leaders. He is an awesome kid, very honest and loves his wife so much".

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Tom Pfeiffer)

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