Dennis Rodman’s 3rd trip to North Korea: no Kim meeting – Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has departed North Korea without meeting with leader Kim Jong Un, but with much praise for the Korean basketball players he trained there.
It was Rodman’s third visit to the secretive communist state, and unlike his first two visits, it did not include a visit with the country’s leader, whom Rodman has called his “friend” after previous visits.
Rodman’s third trip to North Korea began last week, as he spent four days to assist in setting up an exhibition basketball game featuring players from North Korea and a dozen NBA veteran players, whose identities have not yet been announced, according to reports.
The friendly contest is scheduled for Kim Jong Un’s birthday on January 8.
“They are awesome,” Rodman told CNN, referring to the North Korean basketball players, on Monday at Beijing Capital International Airport.
Rodman’s third trip and latest round of “basketball diplomacy” came less than a week following North Korea’s announcement of the dramatic purge and execution of Jang Song Taek, the uncle and former mentor of Kim Jong Un.
Jang was believed to be North Korea’s number 2 leader.
His execution came as quite a shock to the outside world, and caused uncertainly as to what is going on inside the isolated state.
It also worsened already tense relations with South Korea and the United States.
Rodman began a friendship with Kim Jong Un when he first travelled to North Korea last February, bringing a team of Harlem globetrotters for an exhibition game watched by Kim, who is a basketball fan.
Asked about not seeing Kim on this visit, Rodman said, “No, I’m not worried about it. I’ll see him again,” explaining that his goal on this trip was to try out the local players and make preparations for the upcoming game, said a CNN report.
“I will be coming back in another week,” he added.
In the past, Rodman has described Kim as a “very good guy”, in spite of the widespread international condemnation of North Korea’s human rights record.
Rodman received criticism for his first trip back in February, coming at a time of political tension with North Korea threatening missile strikes against South Korea, Japan, and the United States.