December 12, 2013
N.Korean leader meets former U.S. basketball star Rodman again
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un again met former US basketball star Dennis Rodman during his second visit to North Korea this year, North Korea's state news agency said but made no mention on whether the two discussed the fate of a jailed American missionary.
The flamboyant former NBA star's visit came after North Korea abruptly withdrew its invitation to Robert King, US special envoy on North Korean human rights issue, who was expected to head to Pyongyang in a bid to secure the release of Kenneth Bae.
Bae, 45, was sentenced to hard labour for 15 years in May for crimes against the state. He had been arrested in November after entering the North with a tour group and his health has been deteriorating since he was imprisoned.
Though there had been speculations that Rodman would free the detained American, he said his visit was for "another basketball diplomacy tour."
Kim and Rodman spent quality time together by having dinner and watching a basketball game during Rodman's five-day trip, the North's KCNA news agency reported.
The report added Kim warmly welcomed Rodman and had a "cordial talk." Rodman reportedly expressed his thanks to the leader for spending time with him, saying Kim's greeting is "an expression of good faith towards the Americans."
Kim, the third of his line to rule North Korea, is a basketball fan and appeared to get along well with Rodman on the earlier visit, with the two of them pictured laughing, eating and drinking together and watching an all-star basketball match.
Rodman first visited Pyongyang earlier this year at a time when North Korea was threatening the United States, South Korea and Japan with missile strikes.