In Beijing, Rodman says he’s just a man and cries

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In Beijing, Rodman says he’s just a man and cries


Retired U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman is surrounded by journalists upon his arrival from Pyongyang at the Beijing Capital International Airport yesterday. [REUTERS/NEWS1]

BEIJING - Retired American basketball star Dennis Rodman appealed on Monday for the world to set aside politics, if only for a day, as he arrived in China from North Korea, where he sparked an outcry for his comments regarding a U.S. citizen imprisoned there.

The 52-year-old former athlete angered many people in the United States following an interview last week in which he implied that Kenneth Bae, an American tour guide imprisoned by North Korea, was to blame for his incarceration rather than authorities in Pyongyang.

Rodman, who considers himself a “friend” of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, apologized for the remarks made during his visit to North Korea with a group of fellow U.S. basketball players.

Rodman was met by a throng of media as he made his way, flanked by burly bodyguards, through the airport terminal to a waiting car.

“I want to tell people that no matter what’s going on in the world, for one day, just one day, not politics, not all this stuff,” he said.

“I’m not the president, I’m not an ambassador, I’m Dennis Rodman, just an individual, just showing the world a fact that we can actually get along and be happy for one day.”

He then appeared to be overcome with emotion and seemed to start crying as he moved away from the media, repeating “I’m sorry.”

Rodman expressed regret over the interview on Thursday in which he implied that Bae was to blame for his own imprisonment. The retired basketball player said he had been feeling emotional after drinking.

Bae, 45, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for state subversion in North Korea, where he was detained in 2012 while leading a tour group.

North Korea’s Supreme Court said he used his tourism business to form groups aimed at overthrowing the government.

On Monday, Rodman expressed his thanks to “the Marshal,” which is Kim’s official title, for enabling his visit.

“It’s amazing that I had the opportunity just to go to North Korea, and for the Marshal to give me an opportunity just to be in his presence in the city,” he said. “This is not a bad deal.”

Rodman staged a basketball match in Pyongyang to commemorate Kim’s birthday, drawing the ire of human rights activists. He also visited a ski resort in the isolated state.

Rodman led a chorus of North Koreans in singing “Happy Birthday” to Kim.

The fading basketball star’s trips had previously been financed by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, although it recently withdrew its funding.

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