Former NBA superstar Dennis Rodman returned to North Korea in what he called a “basketball diplomacy” mission.
Rodman’s trip, his second this year, came days after North Korea cancelled its invitation for a top US official to visit the country to seek the release of Kenneth Bae, a US citizen accused of overthrowing the regime and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
But Rodman, an unlikely envoy, played down speculation he would try his hand at persuading Kim Jong-Un to free Bae.
Before leaving for Pyongyang, Rodman briefly spoke to reporters at Beijing’s airport, saying, “I just want to meet my friend Kim, the marshal, and start a basketball league over there.”
He called his trip a “friendly gesture” and declined to comment when asked if he would bring up the Bae issue.
Rodman met Kim, a reportedly avid fan of basketball, during a “basketball diplomacy tour” in February.
He reportedly asked Kim to “do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose” in a post on his Twitter after his much-photographed visit.
US officials slammed Rodman’s visit and said it gave Kim a propaganda boost.
Robert King, a US human rights envoy, was set to arrive in Pyongyang to negotiate Bae’s freedom.
North Korea rescinded the invitation after US B-52 bombers flew over the Korean peninsula, dashing hopes of a smooth negotiation for the immediate release of Bae.
By: Maesie Bertumen
Image: Dayland Shannon/Flickr