Dennis Rodman has headed to North Korea for the second time in 2013, though this time he’s backpedaled a bit on his intentions. In a recent interview, the former NBA star said he plans to simply to see his “friend” Kim Jong Un and “talk about basketball,” though he previously had stated he intended to ask for the release of jailed U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae.
“I’m not going to North Korea to discuss freeing Kenneth Bae,” Rodman tells Reuters in a phone interview before leaving Beijing for Pyongyang. “I’m just going there on another basketball diplomacy tour.”
He adds, “I’m just trying to go over there to meet my friend Kim, the Marshal. Try to start a basketball league over there, something like that.” Rodman also calls Kim “an awesome kid.”
That’s a different message than Rodman had when he spoke to The Huffington Post last week. At the time, he said, “I will definitely ask for Kenneth Bae’s release. I will say, ‘Marshal, why is this guy held hostage?’ I could try and soften it up in that way. If the Marshal says, ‘Dennis, you know, do you want me to let him loose?’ and then if I actually got him loose — and I’m just saying this out the blue — I’d be the most powerful guy in the world.” Rodman, whose trip is sponsored by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, previously tweeted similar sentiments.
Bae was sentenced in February to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea after he was convicted of unspecified “hostile acts” against the country. Last week North Korea cancelled a “humanitarian mission” led by Robert King that was aimed at negotiating the release of Bae.