|Retired American NBA star Dennis Rodman speaks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during the former athlete’s second visit to North Korea before departing on Saturday. (Yonhap News) |
Retired NBA star Dennis Rodman returned on Saturday from his five-day visit to North Korea, where he met the North's leader Kim Jong-un, but without the detained American Kenneth Bae.
Rodman's visit to the communist country this week, his second trip there this year, came just days after Pyongyang abruptly rescinded an invitation to a senior U.S. diplomat who had planned to visit the North to secure the release of Bae.
Speaking to reporters at Beijing's airport en route to the United States, Rodman said he spoke with Kim about "peace, sports ... and my team and their team in North Korea," calling the leader "a friend for my life."
At the Beijing airport, Rodman showed reporters dozens of pictures of their meeting and said he gave the young leader a gift of vodka.
When repeatedly asked by reporters about whether he asked Kim to release Bae, Rodman shouted, "You should ask it to Obama. Ask Hillary Clinton."
Hours before Rodman arrived in Beijing, the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that Kim and Rodman had a "cordial talk," without detailing when the meeting took place.
The KCNA report had no mention of Bae.
Before departing for Pyongyang on Tuesday, Rodman had played down the possibility that he may seek Bae's release, saying he was visiting the North as an athlete.
Rodman met with Kim during his first visit in March at a time when tensions on the Korean Peninsula were running high following the North's third nuclear test in February.
Last week, North Korea canceled an invitation to the U.S. envoy on North Korean human rights issues, Robert King, who had been expected to help release Bae, the 45-year-old Korean-American man serving a prison term there.
North Korea blamed the U.S. for the cancellation of the visit by Ambassador King, citing a joint military drill between South Korea and the U.S. (Yonhap News)