Dennis Rodman is going through with his plans to return to North Korea this week to train the national basketball team and help celebrate leader Kim Jong Un's birthday, despite the recent execution of Kim's uncle.
Rodman has already visited the insular country considered to be one of the world's most repressive regimes twice this year. He has famously declared the dictator a friend for life and still insists that his own basketball diplomacy can help ease the tensions between North Korea and the U.S.
“Yes, I'm going to North Korea to train the basketball team,” the flamboyant former NBA star told the Associated Press by phone. “I'm going to bring American players over there. Yes, I am. I'm going to be the most famous person in the world when you see American people holding hands and hoping the doors can be opened. If they can. If they can. If they can. I'm going. I'm going back for [Kim's] birthday. Special.”
Rodman said that in addition to working with North Korea's basketball team, he has planned an exhibition game between that team and a group of former professional players, whose names have yet to be revealed, in January to celebrate Kim's birthday.
Rodman's trip has been long-planned and apparently won't be derailed by last week's execution of Jang Song Thaek, who was married to Kim's biological aunt and considered to be second in command behind his nephew.
But North Korea’s official news agency last week called Jang “despicable human scum” and a “dog” in reporting his execution.
Rodman's visit also comes on the heels of the release of former American captive Merrill Newman, a visiting Korean War veteran who had been detained since October. American Kenneth Bae remains a captive in North Korea after being sentenced in May to 15 years in prison.
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