There are reportedly no plans so far to send an American high-profile envoy to North Korea to act on behalf of US citizen Kenneth Bae, who was sentenced to 15 years hard labor after finding him guilty of unspecified crimes against the state in a move possibly intended to force concessions from Washington.
However, Dennis Rodman, the maverick basketball player turned maverick diplomat, has his own plan going. “I’m calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea, or as I call him ‘Kim’, to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose,” he tweeted.
There can clearly be no doubt about the depth of the rapport between Kim Jong-un and Rodman. A couple of months ago, the two men met in Pyongyang, hugged, watched basketball together and became what Rodman called afterwards “friends for life”.
It may be that Kim is puzzling over the meaning of “do me a solid”, which would even stretch some people who speak English. The phrase appears to have its origins in the 1980s, with “a solid” being any fairly demanding favor that one (usually male) friend might do as a mark of friendship for another.
In January Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico, and the Google chief executive, Eric Schmidt, attempted to secure Bae’s release during a visit to North Korea but they were not allowed to meet him.
Last week the US state department called for Bae’s immediate release and said it was working on his case with the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang, which looks after US interests in the North.