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Dennis Rodman says he's returning to North Korea, with others

September 9, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Former NBA player Dennis Rodman has plenty to say about his recent North Korean trip, including his hopeful role as an Olympic coach and his self-proclaimed value as an international diplomat.

The unusual relationship between Rodman and North Korea's autocratic leader is growing with what Rodman calls basketball diplomacy. Days after returning from his second trip to North Korea, the Hall of Famer touted his friendship with Kim Jong Un and taunted the president for not talking to him.

Rodman walked into his press conference on Monday clutching a cigar and wearing clothing promoting Paddy Power, the Irish betting company that is sponsoring his trips, but he told the crowd he's not doing it for the money.

"It's not about the money, it's about doing one thing: try to open Obama's and everyone's mind," said Rodman.

Rodman says he will be returning to North Korea and bringing a team of former NBA players with him for two exhibition games in January for Kim Jong Un's birthday. He also says the leader has asked him to train the country's basketball team for the 2016 Olympics.

Rodman says during his visit he enjoyed time with Kim's new wife and was the first foreigner to hold their newborn daughter.

Rodman has been criticized for his growing friendship with Kim, who is known for human rights violations and has threatened to launch nuclear missile attacks on America.

He rarely referred to Kim by name, frequently calling him "the marshal." Rodman first met Kim, a basketball fan, when traveling to North Korea in February for a film project.

Though saying he didn't want to discuss politics, Rodman raised his voice when answering a questioner about Kim's human rights record and portrayed himself as the person who could make outsiders see the young leader as different than his father and grandfather.

The basketball legend insists North Korea's young leader is a good person who wants to have better relations with the U.S.

"He said, 'Dennis, I want you to go over to America and say, 'Guess what? We want people to come over here because we are not a bad country,'" said Rodman.

Rodman didn't directly answer any questions about American missionary Kenneth Bae, who has been jailed in North Korea since November, other than to say lobbying for Bae's release wasn't his job. He instead blamed President Barack Obama.

The eccentric basketball player also taunted Obama with an offer to ease tensions between the countries.

"This guy just wants to do one thing: just have a conversation with you, that's it. So why, Obama, are you afraid to talk to Dennis Rodman? You're not afraid to talk to Beyonce and Jay-Z. Why not me?" said Rodman.

The State Department says it is open to hearing about Rodman's trip, but a spokeswoman says she wasn't aware of any effort by officials to speak with the basketball legend.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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