News

Rodman leaves for N. Korea for basketball

Rodman leaves for N. Korea for basketball

BASKETBALL BIRTHDAY: Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman (C) is surrounded by journalists as he arrives at the Beijing Capital International Airport to leave for Pyongyang, in Beijing, Jan. 6. Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee

By Maxim Duncan

BEIJING (Reuters) – Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman left Beijing for North Korea on Monday with a team of retired basketball players to mark the birthday of “nice guy” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

This will be Rodman’s fourth trip to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, where he and his team of fellow former National Basketball Association stars will hold basketball games on Kim’s birthday, which is believed to fall on Wednesday, although it has never been officially confirmed.

On previous visits, Rodman spent time dining as a guest of Kim, with whom he says he has a genuine friendship, though he did not meet Kim on his third trip.

Rodman said he will not interfere in the country’s politics.

“People always say that North Korea is like a really communist country, that people are not allowed to go there,” Rodman told reporters at an airport in Beijing. “I just know the fact that, you know, to me he’s a nice guy, to me.”

“Whatever he does political-wise, that’s not my job. I’m just an athlete, an individual who wants to go over there and play something for the world. That’s it.”

Rodman’s latest visit follows the rare public purge of Kim’s powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek, who was executed in December.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has described recent events in North Korea as a “reign of terror”. The purging of Jang, considered the second most powerful man in the North, indicated factionalism within the secretive government.

Wearing sunglasses, a sequin-encrusted cap and a pink scarf, Rodman was asked about his response to critics who said he should not play in the reclusive state.

“Are they going to shoot me? Are they going to shoot me? Come on, man,” he said.

(Writing by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Michael Perry and Robert Birsel)

Recent Headlines

yesterday in National

Teen stowaway spent hours undetected at California airport

airport

A boy who stowed away on a flight to Hawaii in the frozen, oxygen-deprived wheel well of a passenger jet is resting in a hospital.

yesterday in Sports

Suns’ Dragic voted NBA’s most improved

suns

Phoenix guard Goran Dragic, whose breakout campaign helped his team to a 23-win improvement, was named most improved player.

yesterday in National

Washington state eyes building ban after deadly mudslide

mudslide

Snohomish County is considering a six-month ban on new construction in landslide-prone areas.

yesterday in Sports

Phelps facing toughest challenge yet

phelps

Michael Phelps has been swimming against the tide all his life.

yesterday in Sports

Pujols joins 500 club

pujols

Albert Pujols belted two homers to reach the 500 home run milestone as he powered the Los Angeles Angels to a 7-2.