The White House says it would not have approved athlete Dennis Rodman’s latest trip to North Korea if it had any say in the matter. It says Rodman’s travel to North Korea with a team of retired basketball players was considered private travel, and not subject to government review.
Rodman took the players to North Korea to play a birthday game for the country’s leader, Kim Jung Un.
White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to respond to Rodman’s outburst when Rodman was asked by CNN on Tuesday whether he would raise the issue of Kenneth Bae, an American missionary with health problems who has been detained there on charges of “anti-state” crimes for over a year. Carney again called for Bae’s release on humanitarian grounds.
Rodman is the highest-profile American to meet Kim since the leader inherited power after his father, Kim Jong Il, died in 2011.
The plan to hold the game has been criticized because of the North’s human rights record, its development of nuclear weapons and its threats to use them if a conflict breaks out with Washington or Seoul. Rodman in particular has been slammed for not trying to use his influence with Kim to secure Bae’s release.