Former NBA star Dennis Rodman returned Tuesday to North Korea for his second trip to the communist country where he said he plans to see “my friend” Kim Jong-Un.
Rodman told reporters that he would visit the country for five days but did not say whether or not he he would seek the release of Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary who has been jailed in North Korea since November 2012. “I’m not going to talk about that,” he said. “I’m not a diplomat.”
After the Christian missionary was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, a Seattle Times editorial dared the basketball star to ask the dictator to pardon Bae. “I’m calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea or as I call him ‘Kim’ to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose,” Rodman tweeted in May.
“I just want to meet my friend Kim, the marshal, and start a basketball league over there or something like that,” Rodman said on Tuesday. “I have not been promised anything. I am just going there as a friendly gesture.”
Rodman first visited Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, in February to promote basketball and make a film sponsored and produced by Vice Media. Ignoring criticism from human rights activists and stricter U.N. sanctions over Pyongyang’s third nuclear test the same month, Rodman spent a considerable portion of his trip with Kim, a longtime basketball fan.
In an effort to exercise his “basketball diplomacy,” Rodman suggested President Obama pick up the phone and call Kim, who he called an “awesome guy.”
Earlier this year, the North Korean dictator threatened the United States and South Korea repeatedly with nuclear strikes. due to the U.N. Security Council’s imposed sanctions. Rodman’s current trip is sponsored by an Irish gambling operation, Paddy Power, who sent the basketball payer to Vatican City earlier this year to invite people to place bets on a new pope.