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North Korea expecting visit from ex-NBA player Dennis Rodman
This combination of file photos shows former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman in Pyongyang, North Korea on Dec. 20, 2013, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang on April 15, 2017. | AP Photos/David Guttenfelder, Wong Maye-E, Files
BEIJING — North Korea is expecting another visit by former NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman on Tuesday in what would be his first to the country since President Donald Trump took office.
Rodman has received the red-carpet treatment on each of his past visits but has been roundly criticized for doing so during a time of high tensions between the US and North Korea over its weapons programs.
In 2014, he arranged a basketball game with other former NBA players and North Koreans and regaled leader Kim Jong Un with a rendition of “Happy Birthday.” On the same trip, he suggested an American missionary was at fault for his own imprisonment in North Korea, remarks for which he later apologized.
A foreign ministry official who spoke to the AP in Pyongyang confirmed Rodman was expected to arrive Tuesday but could not provide details. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the ministry had not issued a formal statement. CNN reported Rodman was in Beijing, his expected departure point for a flight to the North Korean capital.
Any visit by a high-profile American is a political minefield and Rodman has been criticized for failing to use his influence on leaders who are otherwise isolated diplomatically from the rest of the world.
Americans are regarded as enemies in North Korea since the two countries never signed a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. Thousands of US troops are based in South Korea, and the Demilitarized Zone between the North and South is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world.