Because America doesn't have enough problems on the world stage, former NBA star Dennis Rodman is headed back to North Korea on Tuesday to meet with leader Kim Jong Un for the fifth time since 2013 and his first trip to Pyongyang of the Trump presidency. If past visits are any guide, Rodman will be greeted warmly by Kim, a basketball fan. In China, Rodman told reporters that he is "just trying to open a door" with North Korea. When asked if he had spoken with President Trump about his trip, he replied, "Well, I'm pretty sure he's pretty much happy with the fact that I'm over here trying to accomplish something that we both need."
Relations between North Korea and the U.S. are especially tense right now, after Pyongyang's several missile tests in recent months and Washington's response. Several U.S. citizens are being detained in North Korea, but that's "not my purpose right now," Rodman said. The U.S. State Department said it is aware of Rodman's trip, highlighting that he's making it as a private citizen. "We wish him well, but we have issued travel warnings to Americans and suggested they not travel to North Korea for their own safety," said U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon.
Rodman is friendly with both Kim and Trump, after his appearance on two season of Trump's Celebrity Apprentice reality TV show. A Rodman publicist highlighted that unusual configuration of relationships, and CNN's Erin Burnett suggested it's improbable that Rodman isn't somehow visiting Kim on Trump's behalf.
At the same time, Rodman's journey is being sponsored by a company that uses cybercurrency for marijuana transactions in states where the drug is legal. Marijuana is not legal in North Korea.