BEIJING: Former NBA star Dennis Rodman on Tuesday said he was heading back to Pyongyang to see his “friend”, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, but refused to say if he would come back with an imprisoned US citizen.
Korean-American Kenneth Bae, 44, has been held prisoner in the North since November, and Rodman had said last week that he might seek the man’s release.
But speaking to reporters at Beijing airport en route to the North Korean capital, Rodman said “I haven’t been promised anything” on Bae.
“I’m just going to meet my friend Kim the marshal to start a new basketball league going,” Rodman said. “I’m just trying to keep the communication job going.”
On a visit six months ago, the flamboyant Rodman declared himself a “friend for life” of the authoritarian leader and embraced him after the pair watched a basketball game together in Pyongyang.
The Swiss-educated Kim is reported to be a huge fan of basketball and the Chicago Bulls, with whom Rodman won three NBA titles alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s.
Rodman faced ridicule from many US commentators over the first trip, which came during high tensions over rocket launches and atomic tests by Kim’s isolated regime.
At the time, in an enthusiastic commentary on the Kim-Rodman meeting, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted the former Chicago Bulls star — nicknamed “The Worm” — as saying the impasse in US-North Korean relations was “regrettable”.
North Korea and the United States have never had diplomatic ties.
Bae, a Korean-American tour operator whose Korean name is Pae Jun-Ho, was arrested in November 2012 as he entered the hardline communist state’s northeastern port city of Rason.