*Days after North Korea ruler Kim Jong Un announced the execution of his own uncle for treason, his good friend Dennis Rodman has revealed he will visit the country for a third time on Thursday.
The retired NBA star’s trip comes on the heels of a rare admission of factionalism within the North Korean government. Un’s uncle Jang Song Thaek was purged and then executed last week – a period South Korean President Park Geun-hye described as a “reign of terror.”
Rodman is expected to provide North Korea’s national basketball team with four days of training. He also intends to return to Pyongyang in January with a team of fellow former National Basketball Association stars to hold basketball games on Kim Jong Un’s birthday.
“It’s certainly safe, even when there is a bit of disruption like there is now, a bit of trouble or chaos. There’s even more need for cultural or sporting exchanges,” said Rory Scott, a spokesman for Irish bookmakers Paddy Power, which has arranged Rodman’s trip.
Rodman has visited Pyongyang on two other occasions, during which he spent time dining as a guest of Kim Jong Un, with whom he says he has a genuine friendship.
In Washington, a State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, sought to distance the U.S. government from Rodman’s visit. “We have not been contacted by Mr. Rodman about his trip to North Korea,” said the official. “The State Department does not vet U.S. citizens’ private travel to the DPRK.”