The world's most unlikely diplomat is at it again.
On Tuesday, retired NBA superstar Dennis Rodman boarded a state-run plane to North Korea, telling press that he is once again paying his friend Kim Jong-un a visit. Rodman and Kim have been buds since the two enjoyed a boozy dinner and basketball game last March, about the time that the North Korean president announced his intention to annihilate the United States with nuclear missiles.
Rodman told press at the airport that he was not, repeat not, visiting to try to improve frayed relations between the U.S. and the totalitarian North Korea. "I'm going over there to just have a good time with him and his family," he insisted. "That's pretty much it." But never let it be said that Rodman doesn't take his responsibilities as inadvertent diplomat seriously: "I'll try to bridge a gap with Americans and North Korea," he added. "Just let people see in America that it's not a bad thing to go to North Korea, and have a good time and meet new people."
On Friday, North Korea officially refused to let a U.S. Human Rights Ambassador come visit. Robert King was hoping to help out American citizen Kenneth Bae, who in late April was sentenced to 15 years' manual labor and imprisonment for "hostility" against the country. (Bae, originally from South Korea, had allegedly encouraged North Korean citizens to revolt against the dictatorship, and set up bases in an attempt to do so.) "I’m not going to North Korea to discuss freeing Kenneth Bae," Rodman clarified.
Rodman first visited North Korea with "exhibition baseball team" Harlem Globetrotters earlier this year. The people at Vice had noticed that Kim and his aides were very into basketball, "lighting up" whenever the Chicago Bulls — Rodman's former team — were mentioned. Rodman and Kim sat down to watch a game together, laughing and chatting merrily all the while, and later Kim and his wife treated Rodman to a boozy supper. “I love him," Rodman said at the time. "The guy’s awesome.”
Rodman and the Vice film crew were the first Americans to meet Kim since he inherited his father's leadership in 2011. At the time, Kim had responded to stricter U.N. sanctions following his third missile test by declaring that he would turn parts of America and South Korea into a "sea of flames."
Rodman is not shy to controversy. He had an brief affair with Madonna, married Carmen Electra, released autobiographies entitled Bad As I Wanna Be and I Should Be Dead Right Now, and has been arrested several times. In July, Rodman launched his own vodka, titled Bad Boy Vodka.
He will not, however, be bringing any for Kim. "There should be a lot of Bad Boy vodka there already," he said, apparently joking. (No one's really sure.) "They love whisky, they love tequila, they love vodka, stuff like that, so hoping we're going over to have a nice dinner, sit and talk about communication and sports."
Here's Vice's coverage of the world's most bizarre basketball game: