Wednesday, February 27, 2013

U.S. Government Refuses to Comment on DPRK Visit by Basketball Players

U.S. gov't refuses to comment on DPRK visit by American basketball players
2013-02-27 09:58:09

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. State Department on Tuesday refused to comment on an ongoing visit by a delegation of U.S. basketball players to Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

"We don't vet U.S. citizens' private travel to North Korea (DPRK)," State Department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell said. "In terms of this private travel to do basketball with kids, we just don't take a position on this private travel."

"But we do urge U.S. citizens contemplating travel to North Korea to review our travel warnings on North Korea, as well as country-specific travel information available on our website," he added.

The 13-member Harlem Globetrotters delegation, led by retired U.S. basketball player Dennis Rodman, arrived in Pyongyang Tuesday for a week-long visit, which is expected to include running a basketball camp for the DPRK's children and engaging in community-based games.

"I think most of guys are first time here so hopefully everything is OK and hopefully kids have a good time for the game," Rodman, 51 and five-time NBA champion, told DPRK's official news agency KCNA.

The Asian country is the 122nd stop among the countries and regions visited by the Harlem team, which received the invitation around one month ago.

It remains unclear whether DPRK's top leader Kim Jong Un, believed to be an avid basketball fan, will watch a match between the two sides. "It is only a communication between the two countries' sports fields," a DPRK official said.

The visit follows a trip last month by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, which the U.S. State Department characterized as unhelpful.

Washington and its allies are pressing for stricter sanctions against Pyongyang at the UN Security Council following its latest nuclear test on Feb. 12 in defiance of international opposition.

"You know where we are in terms of the track with the DPRK and their threatening and provocative behavior, and how we're working very hard in New York for a very credible and strong response," Ventrell said.

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