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Rodman lands in North Korea to meet Kim and 'help the world'

Rodman told reporters that he hopes to have a "good conversation" with Kim Jong Un whom he has described as a "friend for life."

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Former US NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman (C) speaks to members of the media as he makes his way through Beijing's international airport on December 19, 2013. Rodman is on a visit to North Korea from December 19 to 23. (WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images)

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman landed in North Korea on Thursday, on a mission to train the national team.

The trip may include a meeting with leader Kim Jong Un, despite last week's shocking purge and execution of his once-powerful uncle.

North Korea's Vice Sports Minister Son Kwang Ho met Rodman at the airport, where the basketball player made no public remarks.

Before boarding an Air Koryo flight at Beijing's Capital International Airport, Rodman told reporters that he hopes to have a "good conversation" with Kim whom he has described as a "friend for life."

He said, "I know (Kim) is waiting for me to come back. So hopefully we will have some conversation about some things that's going to help the world."

Rodman has previously visited North Korea twice, first in March and then in September. During his March trip, he connected with the 30-something leader as they watched an exhibition basketball match.

The North's leader, who studied in Switzerland, is an avid NBA fan.

Rodman's trip this week comes amid potential political instability in North Korea following the execution of Jang Song-thaek. South Korea and the U.S. have kept a close watch on North Korea for possible provocations.

Jang's dramatic downfall marked the most significant political upheaval since Kim took power two years ago after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

Rodman said his trip this time is aimed at training the North's basketball team.

"I am going to North Korea today. I can help some of the people there."

When asked whether he still thinks that Kim Jong Un is a good friend, Rodman said, "So far, I know. So good."

Rodman also distanced himself from politics in North Korea, including the execution of Jang and the detention of U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae, saying "I have got nothing to do with that."

Rodman's trip was organized by Irish bookmakers Paddy Power and he is arranging a friendship exhibition game between North Korea and a team of mainly ex-NBA players on Jan. 8, the young leader's birthday.

In Washington earlier this week, the U.S. State Department said Rodman does not represent the U.S. government and stressed the need to focus on the "brutality" of the North's regime.

"I know it's amusing or maybe interesting to talk about Dennis Rodman, but I actually think the focus really should be on the brutality of the North Korean regime he's going to meet with," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.

"We just saw an execution, a horrific act of brutality, and that's what we're focused on. And we're focused on working with our partners in the region to help get North Korea to a place where it will fulfill its commitments to denuclearize," she said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/north-korea/131219/rodman-lands-north-korea-meet-kim-jong-un-help-world