BEIJING: Former NBA star Dennis Rodman returned to China from Pyongyang yesterday after a five-day trip when he met North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, but without jailed American Kenneth Bae.
The flamboyant ex-Chicago Bulls player arrived at Beijing airport on a flight from North Korea.
He showed a waiting crowd of reporters dozens of pictures, some of them of him with Kim, the roughly 30-year-old leader of the rogue nuclear-armed state who Rodman describes as his “friend”, but quickly became angry, throwing insults before heading to the car park.
“It’s not my job to bring him back,” he said when asked about Bae.
Earlier yesterday the North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim as saying that Rodman “might visit the DPRK (North Korea) any time and spend pleasant days”.
Rodman was reported to have thanked his host for his “expression of good faith towards the Americans” and presented Kim and his wife with a gift. The pair also watched a basketball game together.
There had been speculation that Rodman would try to use his budding relationship with Kim to help free Bae, 45, who was arrested in November 2012 as he entered the hardline communist state’s northeastern port city of Rason.
“I’ll be back over there. I’m going to try to get the guy out,” the heavily tattooed Rodman told celebrity news website TMZ in May.
He also appealed for Bae’s release on Twitter, posting: “I’m calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea or as I call him ‘Kim’, to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose.”
North Korea, which bans religious proselytising, says that Bae was a Christian evangelist who brought in “inflammatory” material.
He was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour earlier this year on charges of trying to topple the North Korean regime.
Japan’s Kyodo news agency quoted Rodman as saying in Pyongyang: “I am sorry about the fact that he (Bae) is in custody and his condition... but I ain’t come only for that.”
Rodman’s entourage for the trip -- which was sponsored by an online gambling firm -- included Michael Spavor, a Canadian who runs an education exchange scheme called the Pyongyang Project, and Joseph Terwilliger, an associate professor of neuroscience at Columbia University in New York.