- Kim Kwang Hyon
Basketball legend Dennis Rodman is said to be arriving in North Korea Tuesday, amid tensions between the US and North Korea over its continued missile launches and the detainment of four American citizens.
North Korean officials confirmed that he was expected to arrive at Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, on Tuesday. A senior US official also confirmed Rodman’s trip and said he was not there in an official capacity, according to CNN.
Rodman declined to answer questions when he was spotted by CNN journalists at Beijing International Airport, the network said.
Rodman reportedly visited North Korea at least four times – his last trip being in 2014 where he and former NBA All-Stars played an exhibition game as a “birthday present” for the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un. Jong Un is said to be an avid fan of the mid-1990s Chicago Bulls.
Rodman has in the past defended his trips as “basketball diplomacy” and called them a “great idea for the world,” according to CNN. However, Rodman has been accused of ignoring North Korea’s human rights atrocities, including the case of American citizen Kenneth Bae, who was held prisoner and sentenced to forced labor by the regime for allegedly planning to overthrow the North Korean government.
In a separate interview conducted after his trip in 2014, Rodman seemed to express remorse over the trip that spurred public condemnation for his overtly friendly ties with Jong Un.
“If you don’t ever want me to go back there again, I won’t go back,” Rodman said to ESPN in March. “If I put anyone in danger, I apologize. I apologize to them on TV, having drinks and stuff like that, and saying stuff that some people thought was way out of line.”
“I wish they understood the whole purpose of why I went to North Korea,” said Rodman. “I wish they did.”