Ex-NBA star Rodman says 1-week visit to N. Korea "amazing"

Former U.S. basketball superstar Dennis Rodman said Monday his one-week trip to North Korea, including a meeting with leader Kim Jong Un, was "amazing."

"I am not the president. I am not an ambassador. I am Dennis Rodman, just an individual," he told a crush of reporters at Beijing airport on arrival from Pyongyang, after celebrating Kim's birthday with the leader last week. "We can actually get along and be happy."

Rodman did not disclose what he discussed with Kim.

Rodman has been criticized for not using his close personal ties with Kim to raise concerns about repression in North Korea and seek the release of an imprisoned U.S. missionary.

Rodman, who won five National Basketball Association championships with the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls, is the highest-profile person from the United States to have met Kim since he inherited power following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in December 2011.

Rodman has described Kim as his "friend for life" and traveled to North Korea four times in less than a year, receiving the red-carpet treatment on each of his trips. He is believed to have had greater access than any other foreigner to Kim, a big basketball fan.

During the latest one-week trip to North Korea, Rodman and a number of retired NBA players staged an exhibition basketball game at a packed Pyongyang stadium to mark Kim's birthday last Wednesday.

Just ahead of the game, which is believed to have marked Kim's 31st birthday, the heavily tattooed NBA Hall of Famer said, "Yes, he is a great leader, he provides for his people here in this country and thank God the people here love the marshal" and sang "Happy Birthday" in front of him.

The U.S. government, which has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, is distancing itself from his basketball diplomacy.

==Kyodo