DPRK top leader meets visiting retired NBA star as 'friends'
Published: Sep 07, 2013 10:44 AM
Kim Jong Un, top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) watched a basketball match together with visiting retired NBA star Dennis Keith Rodman, and held "cordial" talks during dinner.

Warmly welcoming Dennis Rodman "as a friend in a good season," Kim told Rodman that he might visit the DPRK any time and spend pleasant days, the official news agency KCNA reported early on Saturday, giving no information on whether they talked about the sentenced American Kenneth Bae's issue.

Rodman was grateful to Kim, who took precious time to meet him, for which he took as "an expression of good faith towards the Americans," adding that he will contribute to boosting diverse sports and cultural exchange with the country, according to KCNA.

Kim, a big fun of NBA basketball games, watched a basketball match together with Rodman and hosted a dinner for Rodman and his party.

Rodman left Pyongyang on Saturday morning after his four-day "memorial trip" as a member of the Prince Marketing Group. He is accompanied by Michael Peter Spavor, a Canadian NGO official, Joseph Douglas Tervillinger, a Columbia University professor, and Prince manager Christopher Volo.

Foreign correspondents in Pyongyang were not allowed to go into the airport, and Rodman's accompanies refused interview while hastily leaving the airport through a "guest channel."

Upon Rodman's arrival on Tuesday, a Sports Ministry source told Xinhua, on condition of anonymity, that "his visit has nothing to do with the sentenced Korean American," adding that they have been preparing for Rodman's visit since late July.

Rodman visited the DPRK in late February, when tensions on the Korean Peninsula had soared after Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear test on Feb. 12.

When asked about how his trip would contribute to the two countries' relations, Rodman told Xinhua in February: "About the relationship, no one man can do anything. Do not hate people, life is not about that. I love him, he is an awesome guy."

Though US officials frowned on the trip for giving Kim a propaganda boost, Rodman said "basketball diplomacy" could warm relations.

Rodman's latest visit came days after an American envoy's visit was canceled on Aug.30. Robert King, in charge of human rights issues related to the DPRK, had planned to visit Pyongyang in a bid to seek the release of Bae, a 45-year-old Korean American sentenced in late April to 15 years of hard labor for "hostile acts" against the country.

Pyongyang scrapped the trip on the grounds that Washington was hostile to it. The United States repeatedly flew B-52H strategic bombers into the sky above the Korean Peninsula as the most blatant "nuclear blackmail" against the country, which "has gone far from the country's tolerance and patience," said the DPRK Foreign Ministry.

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