Former NBA player Dennis Rodman arrives in North Korea

Posted June 14, 2017

This combination of file photos shows former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman in Pyongyang, North Korea on December 20, 2013, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang on April 15, 2017.

Citing two unnamed North Korean officials, CNN reported Tuesday morning that Rodman planned to touch down in Pyongyang later that day.

A United States official said the State Department was aware Rodman was planning on traveling to North Korea, but that he is not there on behalf of the country, according to CNN.

Rodman has received the red-carpet treatment on four past trips since 2013, but has been roundly criticized for visiting during a time of high tensions between the USA and North Korea over its weapons programs.

Rodman's earlier visits to North Korea included a basketball game that he organised, an event chronicled in the documentary film "Big Bang in Pyongyang", which featured Rodman singing "Happy Birthday" to Kim, as well as scenes of inebriated and erratic behavior by the basketball Hall of Famer.

The former National Basketball Association star teamed up with online betting firm Paddy Power for a series of trips to the isolated nation in 2013.

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A foreign ministry official who spoke to the AP in Pyongyang confirmed Rodman was expected to arrive Tuesday but could not provide details.

North Korea warned Saturday that it was "not too far away" from testing such a missile.

"But one thing we know is that Trump is transactional", said one person who works on North Korea, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the discussions.

After his most recent visit, Rodman sat down with CNN to talk about why he thought that visiting North Korea was good for US-North Korea relations. He also described Kim as "a friend for life" after visiting North Korea in 2013, and has drawn criticism for his public appearances alongside the dictator.

It would be the fifth visit by Rodman since February 2013 when he first visited the North in what could be seen as "basketball diplomacy".

The retired athlete was a former contestant on U.S. President Donald Trump's reality TV show "Celebrity Apprentice", which Trump hosted before running for office, and went on to endorse Trump during election season.

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He was heavily criticised in the USA for not bringing up the case of Kenneth Bae, an American imprisoned on charges of "hostile acts" who spent 735 days in North Korean custody before being released later in 2014.

Rodman's North Korea visits over the years have fueled speculation that he could somehow facilitate a diplomatic breakthrough between Pyongyang and Washington.

Rodman was lambasted on previous trips for refusing to pursue the case of an American, Kenneth Bae, who was being held in North Korea at the time.

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.

Rodman has made several visits to North Korea.

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