Dennis Rodman angrily defends his visit to North Korea
Onyeka Ibeanusi | Wednesday, 8 January 2014 | 617 Total Views
Former American Basketball player Dennis Rodman who is currently planning his fourth visit to North Korea, has angrily defended his visits to the country that has no dilomatic ties with the US. He has in the past described the North Korean leader Mr Kim as a friend and says he is on a "basketball diplomacy" mission. He remains the highest-profile American to have met the young leader.
Rodman had been asked several times in the past whether he could use his relationship with Mr Kim to discuss Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American sentenced to 15 years' hard labour in May 2013.
North Korea said that Mr Bae - described as both a tour operator and Christian missionary - had used his tourism business to plot sedition.
Asked again in a CNN interview, Rodman appeared to lose his cool, saying: "If you understand what Kenneth Bae did... Do you understand what he did in this country? ... I would love to speak on this."
His visit was about opening "the door a little bit", he said, even though the team would have "to go back to America and take the abuse".
A White House spokesman declined to comment on Rodman's remarks, but reiterated a call for North Korea to release Mr Bae - who is suffering from ill health - on humanitarian grounds.
Mr Bae's sister described Rodman's comments as appalling.
"He clearly doesn't know anything about Kenneth, about his case," Terri Chung told CNN. "This isn't some game. This is about a person's life."
Another player, former NBA star Charles D Smith, meanwhile, told the Associated Press news agency that he felt "remorse" for participating in the trip amid the backlash in the US.
"I feel a lot of remorse for the guys because we are doing something positive, but it's a lot bigger than us. We are not naive, we understand why things are being portrayed the way they are."