Basketball legend Dennis Rodman made headlines once again as he arrived in Beijing Saturday following his visit from North Korea without imprisoned American Kenneth Bae.
According to CNN, Rodman told reporters at the Beijing aiport that it was “not his job” to talk about Bae and said to ask President Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton about it.
Rodman said the purpose of his visit was to display his friendship for authoritarian leader Kim Jong Un and North Korea and to "show people around the world that we as Americans can actually get along with North Korea."
Speaking to reporters in Beijing ahead of his flight to Pyongyang — his second trip to the North — Rodman declined to say whether he would seek Bae's release. Bae's health is poor, and he was recently transferred to a hospital.
"I just want to meet my friend Kim, the marshal, and start a basketball league over there or something like that," said Rodman, wearing rings through his lower lip and each nostril. "I have not been promised anything. I am just going there as a friendly gesture."
Bae was arrested in November and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for what Pyongyang described as hostile acts against the state. Rodman once asked on his Twitter account for Kim to "do me a solid" and release Bae. Kim has the power to grant special pardons under the North's constitution.
"I'm not there to be a diplomat. I'm there to go there and just have a good time, sit with (Kim) and his family, and that's pretty much it," Rodman said, adding that he planned to see Kim "pretty soon," perhaps later Tuesday or Wednesday. Rodman is being hosted in North Korea by the Ministry of Physical Culture and Sport, which has not confirmed if or when Rodman will meet Kim Jong Un.
Meetings between senior North Korean officials and foreigners are normally not officially confirmed or announced in advance.
Rodman, however, suggested "basketball diplomacy" could warm relations and said that Kim wanted President Barack Obama to pick up the phone and call him. He has called Kim an "awesome guy."
Outside analysts have said Pyongyang is likely using Bae as bait to win diplomatic concessions in a standoff over its nuclear weapons program. North Korea denies this.
Pyongyang accuses Bae of trying to establish an anti-Pyongyang base in the North. Friends say Bae was based in a Chinese border city and traveled frequently to North Korea both as a tour operator and to feed orphans.
At least five other Americans have been detained in North Korea since 2009. The others were eventually allowed to leave without serving out their terms, some after clemency missions by prominent Americans, including former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.