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Rodman in North Korea to prep for game on leader's birthday

Thursday - 12/19/2013, 3:10pm  ET

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has arrived in North Korea, to meet with the country's leader and finalize plans to bring 12 former NBA players to the country's capital for an exhibition game next month.

The game will mark the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (kim jawng oon).

Rodman says the game is on track -- despite the recent execution of Kim's uncle in a dramatic political purge.

Officials in the capital say the purge hasn't caused any instability. And despite speculation by foreign analysts that the execution could raise questions about the future of the Kim regime, Rodman's visit could be a sign that Kim is firmly in charge.

Rodman told The Associated Press in his hotel in Pyongyang that he is undaunted by the recent events. He said, "I can't control what they do with their government." He added, "I'm just trying to come here as a sports figure and try to hope I can open the door for a lot of people in the country."

He and Kim struck up an unlikely friendship when Rodman traveled to North Korea for the first time in February with the Harlem Globetrotters for an HBO series. He remains the highest-profile American to meet with Kim since he inherited power from his father in 2011.

%@AP Links

091-a-06-(Dennis Rodman, former NBA player, with reporters)-"talk to him"-Former NBA star Dennis Rodman says he hopes his trip to North Korea will help bring countries together. (19 Dec 2013)

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090-a-08-(Dennis Rodman, former NBA star, with reporters)-"around the world"-Former NBA star Dennis Rodman says he wants to arrange an international basketball tournament to take place in January. (19 Dec 2013)

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APPHOTO XDG102: Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman speaks to the media as he enters the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. Rodman arrived to the North Korean capital to help train the national team and renew his friendship with the North's young leader, Kim Jong Un. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) (19 Dec 2013)

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