Dennis Rodman returned to North Korea on Tuesday to visit
dictator Kim Jong Un, who the former professional basketball player described as his "friend for life."
The trip comes days after North Korea rejected a visit by a U.S. envoy meant to win the release of jailed American missionary Kenneth Bae.
"I’m not going to North Korea to discuss freeing Kenneth Bae," Rodman told Reuters in a telephone interview. "I’m just going there on another basketball diplomacy tour."
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"I just want to meet my friend Kim, the marshal, and start a basketball league over there," Rodman added. "I have not been promised anything. I am just going there as a friendly gesture."
In May, Rodman had reached out to the young dictator via Twitter, asking him to "do me a solid" and release Bae
Bae, a Korean American who had been working as a Christian missionary in China and North Korea, was arrested in November and convicted of having committed hostile acts against the state. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, The Associated Press reported
The North Korean supreme court reportedly said Bae had secretly brought "propaganda materials," including a National Geographic documentary on life in North Korea, into the isolated country.
As North Korea's "supreme leader," Jong Un has the power to pardon Bae under the state's constitution.
In February, the 51-year-old basketball hall of famer met with Jong Un
– who is reportedly obsessed with the sport – on three separate occasions.
Rodman attended a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition game with Jong Un, and filmed a television documentary during his initial visit.
Upon his return, Rodman told reporters that the young dictator "just wants to be loved
," and that he had a daughter
, which had previously not been known.
Jong Un, the world's youngest head of state who is either 29 or 30, depending on varying reports, assumed office in December 2011 following his father Kim Jong-il's death.
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Tuesday's visit to North Korea was sponsored by Paddy Power, an Irish gambling operation, which earlier this year sent Rodman to the Vatican to urge people to place their bets on a new pope, the New York Times reported
Following his initial trip to the communist regime in February, Rodman proposed in an interview with UK's The Sun newspaper that "[Kim Jong Un] loves basketball and so does President Obama, so they have that in common — and there is even more they could talk about if Obama would just pick up the phone and call him."
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