Former U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman and a squad of retired NBA players have arrived in Beijing after a trip to North Korea to play an exhibition game last Wednesday for the birthday of leader Kim Jong Un.
Rodman told reporters at the Beijing airport on Monday that he was sorry he could not do anything to help free imprisoned American missionary Kenneth Bae, who was setenced by the North to 15 years of hard labor on a conviction of trying to overthrow the government. He said he is not a diplomat and asked the world to put away politics for one day.
"I want to show people that no matter what's going on in the world, for one day, just one day, not politics, not all this stuff. I'm sorry about all the people that's gone, I'm sorry. I'm not the president, I'm not an ambassador, I'm Dennis Rodman, just an individual, just showing the world a fact that we can actually get along and be happy for one day. I'd love to see it, I'd love to see it," Rodman told Reuters, then stopped mid-sentence... apparently overwhelmed with emotion.
The former NBA star and the team visited the isolated and impoverished country as part of a so-called "basketball diplomacy" trip that has been widely criticized in the U.S. He defended his trip as an effort to "open the door" to North Korea. The former NBA All-Star has said it is not his job to bring up politics with the North Korean leader, who he has referred to as a "good guy" and a "friend for life."
Last week during an interview on an American TV network Rodman unleashed a string of obscenities and implied that Bae was to blame for his own incarceration. He later apologized saying he had been drinking at the time and was stressed out.
State Department and White House officials have stressed that Rodman's trip was unhelpful and not sanctioned by the U.S.
Some information for this report provided by Reuters