Dennis Rodman to visit pal Kim Jung-Un in North Korea and coach a basketball team for Pyongyang competition
Dennis Rodman to visit pal Kim Jung-Un in North Korea and coach a basketball team for Pyongyang competitionReuters

Dennis Rodman has flown out to North Korea to pay another visit to dictator Kim Jung-un.

The former Chicago Bulls player set off from China in the latest stage of his basketball diplomacy mission to the country.

Flamboyant Rodman has forged a close bond with the young North Korean leader and has paid two visits to the country, the last in September.

Rodman plans to spend four days helping coach a basketball team ahead of an exhibition tournament in the capital city, Pyongyang. He is accompanied by a film crew on the bizarre trip, which is being sponsored by UK betting firm Paddy Power.

"I hope this game brings a lot of countries together, because like I said, sport is so important to people around the world. I hope this is going to engage the American people, especially about President Obama, just to try to talk to them," he said at Beijing International Airport.

Rodman's one-man diplomacy appeared immune to reports of the bloody purge by Kim – which commentators reckon was sparked by the podgy dictator's mounting paranoia.

When asked about the execution this month of Kim's uncle Jang Song Thaek, Rodman said: "I've got nothing to do with that."

"We're going to have conversations about some things that's going to help the world."

Last time the pair met, Rodman told Kim "You have a friend for life." North Korea is short of friends on the international stage, which means Rodman is important to the regime, according to one expert on the repressive state.

According to a report by human rights group Amnesty International, the prison camp network in North Korea has been expanding in recent months.

"With Dennis Rodman, we're going to see a lot of made-for-television events. Everybody's going to be smiling, everything will appear normal, and this will bolster the regime," author Gordon Chang told CNN.