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Why North Korea loves Dennis Rodman

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Dennis Rodman is right in believing that North Korea loves him. But he's confused about why. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Adorned in a marijuana company's sponsorship shirt, Dennis Rodman has returned to North Korea.

The former NBA star says he wants to do "something that's pretty positive."

And to be fair, Rodman might already have done so. As Dennis landed in Pyongyang, North Korea released an American student from prison. Otto Warmbier had been held for the last 17 months, apparently after destroying a poster.

The timing of Warmbier's release is unlikely to be coincidental. North Korea tends to release United States prisoners to reward U.S. visitors and lay the foundation for U.S. diplomatic concessions. But here, Warmbier's release suggests that North Korea wants to lend Rodman some credibility back in the U.S. If Rodman is credible, he is a more useful interlocutor.

Based on Rodman's penchant for theatrics, he's likely to fall for the gambit. Expect Rodman to return to the U.S. and call on the Trump administration to negotiate.

Still, it's all for show. North Korea isn't actually interested in surrendering its ballistic missile and nuclear programs. It simply hopes Rodman's words might pressure President Trump to reduce tensions.

But even if Rodman's fails to persuade his former "Apprentice" boss, his visit will serve another North Korean purpose.

After all, Rodman is the North's perfect domestic propagandist: He adores Kim Jong-un and will do anything to make him happy. Rodman is a happy puppet in the North Korean pantomime. We in the West might know that Rodman's diplomacy rests on alcohol, mood swings, and decrepit basketball skills.

But that's not the Rodman the North Korean people see. They see an American legend explain why Kim Jong-un is the world's pre-eminent leader and visionary.

So yes, Dennis Rodman is right in believing that North Korea loves him. But he's confused about why. It's not because of his kindness and charisma. It's because he's an unwitting tool.