Summit Visitor: Former US Basketball Player Dennis Rodman, a Kim Jong Un Friend
Former National Basketball Association player Dennis Rodman said Tuesday he is happy to see a summit take place between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
In an interview with CNN, Rodman said he wants to see the two countries get along, and that Trump should "take a lot of credit because he went out of the box."
Rodman, who has traveled to North Korea five times to visit Kim, broke down in tears at one point in the interview when describing how he faced death threats after returning from one of those trips.
The 57-year-old arrived Monday in Singapore, the site of the Trump-Kim summit. He wore a T-shirt that said, "Peace Starts in Singapore," along with the logo for a cryptocurrency for the legalized marijuana industry that has paid for at least one of his trips to North Korea.
Rodman, a five-time champion in the National Basketball Association, is 20 years removed from his playing days. But he has stayed in the spotlight with his frequent trips to North Korea, which the U.S. State Department has distanced itself from over the years. Rodman said he was not sure if he would meet up with Kim on the sidelines of the summit.
US Strikes in Syria Increase by 300%
The U.S.-led coalition in Syria and Iraq has ramped up its attack on the final remnants of Islamic State, increasing the number of strikes by more than 300 percent over the number of airstrikes in March.
The coalition Monday announced that it conducted 225 strikes again Islamic State (IS) forces in May, a 304 percent increase over the 74 strikes it carried out in March.
Military officials said the strike numbers reflect a refocus by U.S.-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the latest counter-IS assault in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. Dubbed Operation Roundup, the assault follows months of U.S. calls to its allies, the SDF and Turkey, to stop fighting each other in northern Syria and turn their efforts toward defeating IS.
In March, the majority of the predominantly Kurdish population of Afrin, in northwest Syria, evacuated under threat of attack from Turkish military forces and Turkish-backed opposition forces. Some Kurdish fighters in the SDF flocked to Afrin after a plea from locals to protect the city.
U.S. officials have repeatedly said the fighting in northwestern Syria “distracts” from the counter-IS campaign and provides an opportunity for the group to begin reconstituting in some areas.
Coalition estimates of remaining Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria dropped below 3,000 last year, but coalition spokesman Army Col. Sean Ryan told VOA there are still plenty of fighters spread across the Middle Euphrates River Valley.