BEIJING (AP) — Retired NBA star Dennis Rodman left North Korea Saturday, professing his affection for autocratic leader Kim Jong Un and angrily rejecting calls to lobby for the release of imprisoned American citizen Kenneth Bae.
Despite earlier calling on Kim to set Bae free, Rodman said the Christian missionary’s fate was none of his business.
“Guess what? That’s not my job to ask about Kenneth Bae,” Rodman told reporters upon arrival at the airport in China’s capital, Beijing.
“Ask [President Barack] Obama about that. Ask Hillary Clinton,” a visibly agitated Rodman shouted, referencing the former secretary of state. Chomping an unlit cigar, the typically flamboyant Rodman displayed a stack of photos showing him hugging Kim, laughing and conversing with him over a meal and the two of them watching a basketball game together.
The NBA Hall of Famer and five-time championship winner said the two had formed a close bond over the course of his two visits to the isolated communist dictatorship.
“He’s my friend for life. I don’t care what you guys think about him,” Rodman said. Wearing designer sunglasses and a stocking cap adorned with metallic spangles, Rodman quickly flashed with anger when asked about Bae, hurling obscene remarks back at reporters who quizzed him about the purpose of his trip.
At one point, he had to be restrained by a member of his entourage before being bundled into a waiting car.
Rodman told The Associated Press as he was leaving his hotel in Pyongyang that Kim had spoken about his visiting again and that Kim “really actually wants to change things.”
He said Kim had encouraged him when he returns to the United States to “say some very good, positive, and very good things about this country, that’s what we talked about a lot.”