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Former NBA star visits Pyongyang

( China Daily ) Updated: 2017-06-14 07:32:41

PYONGYANG - Dennis Rodman, the former NBA bad boy who has met with DPRK leader Kim Jong-un, flew back to Pyongyang on Tuesday for the first time in Donald Trump's presidency.

He said he is "just trying to open a door" on a mission that he thinks his former Celebrity Apprentice boss would support.

Rodman, who has made several trips to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, talked to reporters briefly before his flight from Beijing to Pyongyang.

Asked if he had spoken to Trump about his trip, he said: "Well, I'm pretty sure he's pretty much happy with the fact that I'm over here trying to accomplish something that we both need."

Rodman has received the red-carpet treatment on four past trips since 2013, but has been roundly criticized for visiting during a time of high tensions between the United States and the DPRK over its weapons programs.

His entourage includes Joseph Terwilliger, a professor who has accompanied Rodman on previous trips to Pyongyang.

'A private citizen'

Rodman said the issue of several US citizens currently detained in the DPRK is "not my purpose right now".

In Tokyo, a visiting senior US official said Rodman is making the trip as a private citizen.

"We are aware of his visit. We wish him well, but we have issued travel warnings to Americans and suggested they not travel to the DPRK for their own safety," US Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon told reporters meeting with Japanese counterparts.

In 2014, Rodman arranged a basketball game with other former NBA and DPRK players and regaled leader Kim with a rendition of Happy Birthday.

A DPRK Foreign Ministry official said Rodman would stay until Saturday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the ministry had not issued a formal statement.

Any visit to Pyongyang by a high-profile US citizen is a political minefield. The US is regarded as an enemy in the DPRK because the two countries never signed a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. Thousands of US troops are based in the Republic of Korea, and the Demilitarized Zone between the two neighbors is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world.

A statement issued in New York by a Rodman publicist said the former NBA player is in the rare position of being friends with the leaders of Kim and Trump. Rodman was a cast member on two seasons of Trump's Celebrity Apprentice.

Rodman tweeted that his trip was being sponsored by Potcoin, one of a growing number of cybercurrencies used to buy and sell marijuana in state-regulated markets.

Ap - Reuters

 Former NBA star visits Pyongyang

Dennis Rodman, former NBA player, arrives at Beijing Capital International Airport on Tuesday.Mark Schiefelbein / Associated Press

(China Daily 06/14/2017 page11)

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