Rodman begins second visit to DPRK
Updated: 2013-09-04 09:49
Former basketball star Dennis Rodman arrives at Pyongyang's airport on Tuesday. Rodman arrived at the capital for a five-day visit, his second this year, but said he had no plans to negotiate the release of a jailed US missionary. Kyodo via Reuters
Rodman was greeted at Pyongyang's airport by Son Kwang-ho, vice-chairman of the DPRK Olympic Committee, just days after Pyongyang rejected a visit by a US envoy who had hoped to bring home Kenneth Bae, a US missionary imprisoned there. The DPRK abruptly called off the official visit because it said the US had ruined the atmosphere for talks by holding a military drill over the Republic of Korea with nuclear-capable B-52 bombers.
Rodman said the purpose of his visit was to display his friendship for Kim and the DPRK and to "show people around the world that we as Americans can actually get along with North Korea".
Speaking to reporters in Beijing ahead of his flight to Pyongyang - his second trip to the DPRK - Rodman declined to say whether he would seek Bae's release. Bae's health is poor, and he was recently transferred to a hospital.
"I'm not going to North Korea to discuss freeing Kenneth Bae," Rodman told Reuters in a telephone interview before he left Beijing for Pyongyang. "I'm just going there on another basketball diplomacy tour."
Kim is a basketball fan and appeared to get on well with Rodman on the earlier visit, with the two of them pictured laughing, eating and drinking together and watching an all-star basketball match.
Rodman's latest trip is being sponsored by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power.
Wearing his trademark dark sunglasses, the 2.01-meter Rodman pushed through a throng of journalists on Tuesday as he made his way to his plane at Beijing Capital International Airport, a common waystation for travelers to the DPRK.
"I'm just trying to go over there to meet my friend Kim, the marshal," Rodman said. "Try to start a basketball league over there, something like that."
Bae was arrested in November and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for what Pyongyang called hostile acts against the state. Rodman once asked on his Twitter account for Kim to "do me a solid" and release Bae. Kim has the power under the DPRK constitution to grant special pardons.
"I'm not there to be a diplomat. I'm there to go there and just have a good time, sit with (Kim) and his family, and that's pretty much it," Rodman said, adding that he planned to see Kim "pretty soon", perhaps later on Tuesday or on Wednesday.
Rodman is being hosted in the DPRK by the Ministry of Physical Culture and Sport, which has not confirmed if or when Rodman will meet Kim. Meetings between senior DPRK officials and foreigners are normally not officially confirmed or announced in advance.
Rodman first met Kim during a visit in February to promote the sport and make a film. US officials frowned on the trip for giving the young leader an exposure boost.