US official wishes Rodman well in North Korea

Report: Pistons great Dennis Rodman headed to North Korea for another visit

Report: Pistons great Dennis Rodman headed to North Korea for another visit

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman is slated to arrive in North Korea on Tuesday for his fifth visit amidst mounting tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, the media reported.

CNN spotted Rodman, 56, at Beijing International Airport, where he declined to answer questions. Rodman has defended his travels, saying in an interview with CNN in 2014 they would help "open the door" to North Korea. A USA official confirmed that the State Department was notified of Rodman's planned travel to North Korea, but maintained he is not on an official visit.

June. 13: On the occasion of Russia Day, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un greeted Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian people on Monday.

The young Kim, who was educated in Switzerland, is reported to be a keen basketball fan and especially of the Chicago Bulls, for whom Rodman played a key role in winning three NBA titles alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s. The former National Basketball Association star had visited the country three times between 2013 and 2014.

The North has occasionally jailed U.S. citizens on charges ranging from hostile acts to illegal entry, and released them only after visits by high-profile figures including former president Bill Clinton.

Rodman also visited North Korea in January 2014, just weeks after Kim made a stunningly violent move to strengthen his grip on power - executing his uncle and onetime No. 2 Jang Song Thaek for alleged treason.

Mr Rodman met the despotic leader on previous trips to Pyongyang and referred to the dictator as "an awesome kid".

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In the same interview he came under fire for remarks which appeared to blame Kenneth Bae, an American-Korean missionary who was jailed in North Korea, for his own incarceration. North Korean officials confirmed to CNN that Rodman is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday.

"They were looking at ways to do that and this was one of the instruments they were looking at, and the foreign ministry thought it was advisable to formally extend an invitation", he told AFP.

Four Americans are now being held in North Korea, including 22-year-old student Otto Warmbier, who has been sentenced to 15 years' hard labour for attempting to steal a propaganda banner. "He told me, 'I would love to come to America to go to a New York Knicks game.' He actually said that to me", Rodman told the cadets in the audience.

It would be Rodman's first visit to the country since President Donald Trump took office.

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein). Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman gestures to photographers as he prepares to go through immigration at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, Tuesday, June 13, 2017.

After the game, the VICE crew and the players were rushed across Pyongyang unexpectedly for a dinner with Kim and other members of North Korea's government. He's made several visits to the country, but has been roundly criticized for insensitive comments and for regaling Kim with "Happy Birthday" in 2014.

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