Dec. 19 - Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman says North Korea's politics has nothing to do with him as he prepares to visit his ''friend'' Kim Jong Un. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: PART AUDIO QUALITY AS INCOMING ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman said on Thursday (December 19) that North Korea's politics were not his business as he prepared to visit his "friend" Kim Jong Un. Speaking to Reuters at his hotel in Beijing before boarding a minibus to the airport, Rodman said he was looking forward to seeing supreme leader Kim Jong Un again. "I felt like, you know, we've been friends for years, so it's like, I haven't seen him in a few months, so it will be cool, it will be cool to see him again. I mean, we have a good time together," he said. Rodman has visited Pyongyang on two other occasions, during which he spent time dining as a Kim's guest. But his third trip comes amid political tension surrounding the execution of leader Kim's uncle. In a rare admission of factionalism within the North Korean government, Jang Song Thaek was purged and then executed last week - a period South Korean President Park Geun-hye described as a "reign of terror". "It has nothing to do with me, it has nothing to do with me. I mean, whatever his uncle has done, and whoever's done anything in North Korea, I have no control over that. I mean, these things have been going on for years and years and years. I mean, whoever is going to be a political insider over there, from America or somewhere else in the world wants to come over there and try to get a hold of it, great. But I'm just going over there to do a basketball game and have some fun," Rodman said. On Wednesday (December 18), prominent North Korean rights activist Shin Dong Hyuk, who says he was born in a labour camp before escaping to the South, sent an open letter asking Rodman to use his friendship to help Kim "hear the cries of his people." Rodman is expected to provide North Korea's national basketball team with four days of training. He also intends to return to Pyongyang in January with a team of fellow former National Basketball Association stars to hold basketball games on Kim Jong Un's birthday. In Washington, a State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, sought to distance the U.S. government from Rodman's visit.