Former professional basketball star Dennis Rodman is expected to arrive in North Korea on Tuesday, CNN has reported, amid heightened tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile program and its jailing of four us nationals.
It posted a statement on its website touting its association with the "historic trip", saying Rodman is in "the very rare position to be able to claim long-time friendships" with both North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump.
Hours before Game 5 of the NBA Finals got underway in Oakland between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the prospect of NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman again traveling to North Korea on a diplomatic mission lit up basketball Twitter and beyond Monday. Asked if he would talk to North Korean leader Kim J. "We wish him well, but we have issued travel warnings to Americans and suggested they not travel to North Korea for their own safety", U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon told reporters after discussing the North Korean missile threat and other issues with Japanese counterparts.
Rodman's 2013 trip came just two weeks after North Korea conducted the first of three underground nuclear tests it has done under the rule of Kim, who is openly pursuing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the USA mainland. FILE - In this January 8, 2014, file photo, Dennis Rodman bows to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seated above in the stands, after singing Happy Birthday to Kim before an exhibition basketball game with US and North Ko.
Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman.
He is expected to arrive in Pyongyang on Tuesday.
Four Americans are also now detained in North Korea.
"They were looking at ways to do that and this was one of the instruments they were looking at, and the foreign ministry thought it was advisable to formally extend an invitation", he told AFP.
Tensions between the USA and North Korea have escalated.
He traveled to North Korea for the first time in February 2013 with the Harlem Globetrotters for an HBO series produced by VICE television.
The drone was believed to have crashed because it ran short of fuel while returning to North Korea. A senior USA official also confirmed Rodman's trip and said he was not there in an official capacity, according to CNN.
Rodman appeared on "Celebrity Apprentice" in 2013, when Trump's children Eric and Ivanka were also judges on the show. "My objective is to go over there and try to see if I can keep bringing sports to North Korea", the former Chicago Bulls forward told CNN. Trump fired Rodman in both seasons.
The North has occasionally jailed United States citizens on charges ranging from hostile acts to illegal entry, and released them only after visits by high-profile figures including former president Bill Clinton.
His entourage included Joseph Terwilliger, a professor who has accompanied Rodman on previous trips to North Korea. In 2014, several suspected North Korean drones were found south of the border.