NBA star Dennis Rodman plans to visit North Korea again
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman says that he is planning to visit North Korea once again to secure the release of Kenneth Bae, who is currently being held captive in the reclusive state.
Rodman's plan comes at a sensitive time after North Korea abruptly canceled a visit by a high-level U.S. official last week.
North Korea cited Washington's use of strategic nuclear-capable bombers in a joint military exercise with South Korea as the reason behind its decision to pull the plug on a visit by Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues Robert King.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry said it was furious the U.S. used B-52 bombers in the joint exercise that ended Friday saying their participation nixed the environment for dialogue.
King had been planning to travel to Pyongyang last Friday to negotiate the release of Kenneth Bae, a U.S. citizen of Korean descent jailed in North Korea.
Bae was arrested last November while leading a travel group on a tour of North Korea and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for "hostile acts" against the country.
Experts here in Seoul say that Pyongyang's move was a calculated response to raise its bargaining power with the United States.
"Pyongyang thought King's mission to rescue Bae would again make North Korea's human rights record appear in a bad light. The cancellation can be seen as a way of not opening a can of worms without receiving certain benefits."
It is thought North Korea initially expected to arrange a bilateral meeting with the U.S. during King's visit.
But analysts believe Pyongyang changed its mind because it saw little chance that the U.S. would agree without the North taking significant action to give up its nuclear weapons programs.
Rodman surprised the international community early this year when he visited the reclusive state and met with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Kim Ji-yeon, Arirang News.
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