Former basketball star Dennis Rodman makes fifth visit to North Korea

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The US government was working with North Korea, trying to secure a release for Bae, yet when Rodman had the opportunity to speak to Kim Jong-Un, he didn't say anything about the Korean-American.

After his well-publicized "basketball diplomacy" trips back in 2013 and 2014, former NBA star Dennis Rodman is headed back to country.

"Rodman's trip has sparked speculation that he may be traveling to free some or all of the four American citizens being held by North Korea, perhaps as a first and important step toward lessening tensions between Washington and Pyongyang", according to the Washington Post.

Mr Rodman was spotted in Beijing's worldwide airport en route to Pyongyang, his fifth time in the isolated dictatorship, and his first since a disastrous visit in 2014 during which he was denounced for singing Happy Birthday to Mr Kim.

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His publicist also pointed out that Rodman was in the unusual position of being friends with both Mr Trump and Mr Kim.

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As well as counting the North Korean dictator as a friend, Rodman is said to be close to US President Donald Trump.

Rodman said the issue of several Americans currently detained by North Korea is "not my objective right now".

Rodman is heading to North Korea later Tuesday from Beijing. Members of the Harlem Globetrotters accompanied Rodman and played in a basketball exhibition against the North Koreans. However, Rodman has a close relationship with President Trump, stretching back to when he appeared on Trump's reality television show Celebrity Apprentice in 2009 and 2013. North Korea's Foreign Ministry official who spoke to the AP in Pyongyang confirmed Rodman was expected to arrive Tuesday, June 13, 2017, but could not provide details.

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Any visit to North Korea by a high-profile American is a political minefield, and Rodman has been criticized for failing to use his influence on leaders who are otherwise isolated diplomatically from the rest of the world.

Under a deal with Moon's conservative predecessor, the United States deployed key components of the so-called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system this spring to cope with a potential North Korean nuclear threat. But Trump fired Rodman for spelling his wife Melania's name wrong.

Madeleine Albright, the US Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton, brought the older Kim a basketball autographed by Michael Jordan during a visit in 2000.

The visit, the goal of which remained unclear, would be Rodman's latest to the nuclear-armed nation.

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