Former NBA All-Star Dennis Rodman is back in North Korea to visit the country's supreme leader Kim Jong Un. The pair has struck up a friendship over the past year, but the reason for Rodman's latest visit remains unclear.
Peter Shadbolt of CNN reports the eccentric Hall of Famer is expected to spend five days in the nation after arriving in the capital of Pyongyang. There have been mixed messages about whether Rodman will try to accomplish anything of a diplomatic nature, such as pushing for the release of jailed U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae, according to James Pearson and Megha Rajagopalan of Reuters:
In Beijing, the gateway for flights to Pyongyang, Rodman told Reuters he was on another "basketball diplomacy tour" and would not be discussing the release of Bae.
"I'm not going to North Korea to discuss freeing Kenneth Bae," Rodman told Reuters in a telephone interview before he left Beijing for Pyongyang. "I've come out here to see my friend (Kim) -- and I want to talk about basketball," he added.
However, the report also points to previous comments made by Rodman to Marc Lamont Hill of the Huffington Post, in which he said Bae's status would be a topic of conversation when he met with his new friend:
I will definitely ask for Kenneth Bae's release. I will say, "Marshal, why is this guy held hostage?" I could try and soften it up in that way.
If the Marshal says, "Dennis, you know, do you want me to let him loose?" and then if I actually got him loose -- and I'm just saying this out the blue -- I'd be the most powerful guy in the world.
In May, Rodman sent out a message on Twitter asking the supreme leader to release Bae, so it's uncertain exactly where he stands on the issue as he begins his return trip to the country.
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.— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) May 7, 2013
The only other issue Rodman mentioned in his comments to Reuters was the possibility of starting a new basketball league in North Korea. Last time he visited the country, he and Kim bonded over the sport, and he's apparently looking to build on that.
Are you surprised by Rodman's budding friendship?
Rodman has always had no interest in staying within the cultural norms. He doesn't mind the spotlight or doing things other people wouldn't even attempt. His relationship with Kim Jong Un is just the latest example.
Whether it will actually lead to progress toward the release of Bae or other ongoing issues between the U.S. and North Korea is very much unknown.
Regardless, Rodman clearly doesn't mind calling the supreme leader a friend and is back for another visit, his second of the year.