Ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman returns from 'really good' North Korea trip

Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman returning from his trip to North Korea, on June 17, 2017.
Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman returning from his trip to North Korea, on June 17, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (Reuters) - Former National Basketball Association star Dennis Rodman arrived in Beijing on Saturday (June 17) after what he said was a "really good" 5-day trip to North Korea.

Rodman, 56, said last week before departing for Pyongyang that he was trying to bring sports to the increasingly isolated nuclear-armed country, where he has previously met leader Kim Jong Un.

"Everybody's going to be happy. It was a good day. It was a good trip. A really good trip," Rodman said.

Wearing black clothing with the PotCoin logo - a crypto-currency used by the legal marijuana industry - Rodman fended off questions from dozens of journalists at the arrival gate.

Asked repeatedly if he had met Kim, Rodman said: "You'll find out." He also declined to answer questions about whether he had played a role in the release of Otto Warmbier, an American student who was returned home on the day of Rodman's arrival suffering from brain damage and in a state of unresponsive wakefulness, after more than a year in detention in North Korea.

Tensions have escalated on the Korean peninsula over North Korea's nuclear and missile tests and its vow to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland, presenting US President Donald Trump with perhaps his most pressing security worry.

Rodman's North Korea visits over the years have fuelled speculation that he could somehow facilitate a diplomatic breakthrough between Pyongyang and Washington.

The US State Department has said Rodman was travelling as a private citizen.

Rodman has faced ridicule and criticism for his trips to North Korea, which some US politicians and activists view as serving only as fodder for North Korean propaganda.

His earlier visits to North Korea in 2013 and 2014 included a basketball game that he organised, an event chronicled in the documentary film "Big Bang in Pyongyang", which featured Rodman singing "Happy Birthday" to Kim.

The US government has issued travel warnings to Americans against going to North Korea.

Rodman, nicknamed "The Worm" during his playing career and known for his tattoos, body piercings and multicoloured hair, is considered one of the best defensive players and rebounders in NBA history.

He won five league championships with the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls.