Rodman defends controversial visit to DPRK
Updated: 2014-01-08 09:43
WASHINGTON - Former American basketball star Dennis Rodman on Tuesday defended his contentious trip to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), saying it was a " great idea for the world."
Talking to CNN in an interview from Pyongyang, Rodman reacted belligerently to questions about the trip to DPRK with a group of retired National Basketball Association (NBA) players, claiming it could help "open the door" to the Asian nation.
Rodman and his fellow players plan to take part in a basketball game on Wednesday to mark the birthday of DPRK's top leader Kim Jong-un.
On his fourth trip to DPRK in a year, Rodman has been under criticism from home for not taking the opportunities to raise with Kim the issue of US citizen Kenneth Bae, who's been detained there for more than a year.
"If you understand what Kenneth Bae did ... Do you understand what he did in this country? Why is he held captive here in this country, why?" Rodman responded angrily to the anchor when asked about the issue.
"I'm just an athlete, an individual who wants to go over there and play something for the world," he told reporters at Beijing's capital airport before flying to Pyongyang.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that he had heard about Rodman's comments but would not "dignify that outburst with a response."
Calling on the DPRK to release Bae, Carney said Rodman was on a private trip "and our views about Kenneth Bae have not changed."
"Mr. Rodman is not there representing the United States. People should remember that when they look at his comments and hear his comments," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a press briefing.
The basketball league also distanced itself from Rodman on Tuesday.
"The NBA is not involved with Mr. Rodman's North Korea trip and would not participate or support such a venture without the approval of the US State Department," NBA Commissioner David Stern said in the statement.
"Although sports in many instances can be helpful in bridging cultural divides, this is not one of them," Stern added.