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Rodman Returns to N.Korea With Ex-NBA Players

Former NBA star will make 3rd visit on December 18 to train N.Korean team, just after nation reportedly restarts nuclear reactor.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 12/4/2013, 3:02 PM

Kim Jong Un, wife Ri Sol-Ju and Dennis Rodman in Pyongang
Kim Jong Un, wife Ri Sol-Ju and Dennis Rodman in Pyongang
Reuters

A week after North Korea reportedly restarted its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, retired NBA star Dennis Rodman announced he would make his third visit to the isolated regime on December 18.

"The Worm," as Rodman was nicknamed, will spend several days training the North Korean basketball team, and then bring other former NBA players for an exhibition game in January, reports Paddy Power, the UK-based online betting company sponsoring the trip.

A spokesman of Paddy Power noted that Rodman would be travelling with a documentary crew, although it is unclear if he will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un again, reports CNN.

In February, when Rodman and Kim met for the first time, the ex-NBA star told the North Korea dictator "you have a friend for life."

Recently the 30-year-old Kim reportedly fired his uncle, Jang Sung-taek, from his top-level governmental position, after publicly executing two of Jang's close allies. It was said that Jang had been pulling the strings from behind the scenes after Kim Jong Il's death in 2011.

John Park, a Northeast Asia analyst at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, told CNN the recent move is seen as "the last part of the power consolidation phase, that Kim Jong Un has in fact removed all of the old guard close to his father and is now finalizing the inserting of his own inner group." Park adds that the move is sure to concern China.

Alongside the power shift, North Korea has flaunted international criticism and restarted one of its nuclear reactors, according to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports.

North Korea's nuclear threat comes as Asia is experiencing great tension in a standoff between world powers over China's recently declared "air-defense identification zone." North Korea remains an important player in the dynamics as China's communist ally.

ABC News interviewed Rodman in March after his first visit to North Korea. The interview can be seen here: