The flamboyant former NBA star Dennis Rodman arrived back in the North Korean capital on Tuesday. Rodman told reporters at Beijing Capital International Airport en route to Pyongyang, "I'm just trying to go over there to meet my friend Kim [Jong-un], the marshal. Try to start a basketball league over there, something like that."
Rodmand’s visit comes a week after North Korea canceled a visit to Pyongyang by Robert King, the U.S. special envoy on North Korean human rights issues, aimed at negotiating the release of jailed U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae.
But in a telephone interview with Reuters, Rodman said, "I'm not going to North Korea to discuss freeing Kenneth Bae. I've come out here to see my friend [Kim] -- and I want to talk about basketball."
Asked if he had been given any pledges from North Korea that Bae will be released if he visits again, Rodman said he does not need any promises.
In an earlier interview with the Huffington Post, Rodman was singing a different tune. "I will definitely ask for Kenneth Bae's release," he said. "I will say, 'Marshal, why is this guy held hostage?' I could try and soften it up in that way."
Rodman's trip is sponsored by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power.