Dennis Rodman, Frequent Visitor to North Korea, Is Back


The former N.B.A. star Dennis Rodman at Beijing International Airport on Tuesday. Mr. Rodman first visited North Korea in February 2013.

Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

HONG KONG — The former N.B.A. star Dennis Rodman has been one of the United States’ most unlikely links to North Korea, traveling repeatedly to the authoritarian state and gaining rare access to its leadership.

Now he is back, though no details have emerged of what he plans to do there.

Mr. Rodman was seen at Beijing International Airport and flew to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, on Tuesday, CNN reported.

Mr. Rodman wrote Tuesday afternoon on Twitter that he had arrived in the country, saying “I’m back” and thanking “my sponsor” PotCoin offers banking services to the legal marijuana industry. One of Mr. Rodman’s earlier visits to North Korea was sponsored by an Irish gambling company.

Mr. Rodman declined to say whether he had spoken with President Trump about the trip. “Well, I’m pretty sure he’s pretty much happy with the fact that I’m over here trying to accomplish something that we both need,” he said, as reported by The Associated Press.

Mr. Trump previously endorsed Mr. Rodman’s visiting North Korea. “Maybe Dennis is a lot better than what we have,” he told Fox News in 2013, a year in which Mr. Rodman also appeared on his “Celebrity Apprentice” show.

The visit is the latest leg in a strange tale. In February 2013, Mr. Rodman, an N.B.A. Hall of Famer, became one of the first Americans then known to have met Kim Jong-un, who had taken over the leadership of North Korea after his father’s death in 2011. Mr. Kim, a longtime basketball fan, invited Mr. Rodman, and the two sat together while watching an exhibition game that featured three Harlem Globetrotters.

Mr. Rodman returned in September 2013, when he held Mr. Kim’s newborn daughter. A few months later he made another visit with a group of former N.B.A. players.

Officials in President Barack Obama’s administration said they would have blocked Mr. Rodman from visiting if they had any power to do so. The N.B.A. distanced itself from the issue, and Mr. Rodman was criticized by politicians and human rights advocates for giving friendly publicity to one of the world’s most repressive states.

But he also offered up little-known details about Mr. Kim, confirming his age and his birthday, for instance. He also suggested that Mr. Obama simply pick up the phone and call the North Korean leader. The United States and North Korea do not have formal diplomatic relations, and Mr. Trump has called on China to pressure its neighbor and ally to rein in its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea has carried out a series of missile tests recently, and some observers raised concerns this spring that it was preparing for a sixth nuclear test. On Tuesday, South Korean military officials told reporters that a North Korean drone found last week had taken photos of a recently installed American-made antimissile system.

Mr. Rodman endorsed Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign in 2015 and appeared on his “Celebrity Apprentice” television show in 2009 and 2013.

An American official told CNN that the Trump administration was aware of Mr. Rodman’s trip but that he was not traveling in any official capacity.

Mr. Rodman has toyed with carrying out serious diplomacy in the past. He mentioned the case of Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American who had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea, in a 2013 interview with the celebrity news site TMZ. But he later played down any suggestion that he would lobby for Mr. Bae and disparaged him in an interview with CNN during his 2014 visit.

Mr. Bae, a Christian missionary who was released in November 2014, said he thought Mr. Rodman had in fact helped him, because he increased public awareness of his imprisonment.

Four Americans are now detained in North Korea, and in May the State Department elevated its travel advisory, saying it “strongly warns” Americans not to visit because of the risk of arrest and long-term detention.

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