Japanese lawmaker Inoki continues 'sports diplomacy' in North Korea
A Japanese professional wrestler-turned-lawmaker will visit North Korea next week, his secretary said yesterday, as attention was focused on the Pyongyang antics of eccentric ex-basketball star Dennis Rodman.
Antonio Inoki is a frequent visitor to the reclusive communist state. During his last trip in November he met Jang Song-Thaek, the uncle of young leader Kim Jong-un, who was purged and executed last month.
Inoki, an opposition member of the upper house, is head of a non-profit organisation aimed at establishing sports-based exchanges, which opened an office in Pyongyang last month.
"We don't know until we arrive there who the senator will meet with - that was always the case in his past visits to North Korea," his secretary said.
"His talks with North Korean senior officials are likely to take up diplomacy through sports, and the possibility of other Japanese parliamentarians visiting the country," he said.
While Inoki is a colourful character by Japanese political standards, his visit is expected to be considerably more low-key than Rodman's.
Inoki, a member of the tiny opposition Japan Restoration Party, was suspended for a month from the legislature for visiting Pyongyang without parliamentary permission while the house was sitting.