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Rodman in North Korea to 'open doors'

PYONGYANG, North Korea -- Former NBA star Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea yesterday to meet leader Kim Jong Un and put the finishing touches on plans to bring 12 ex-NBA players to Pyongyang for a Jan. 8 exhibition game marking the leader's birthday. Rodman said the game is on track despite the recent execution of Kim's uncle in a dramatic political purge.

Rodman's visit comes less than a week after North Korea announced the execution of Jang Song Thaek, an unprecedented fall from grace for one of the most powerful figures in the country.

Rodman told The Associated Press in a brief interview at his Pyongyang hotel that he was undaunted by the recent political events.

"I can't control what they do with their government, I can't control what they say or how they do things here," he said. "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."

Rodman and Kim have struck up an unlikely friendship since the Hall of Famer traveled to the secretive state for the first time in February with the Harlem Globetrotters for an HBO series. He remains the highest-profile American to meet Kim since the leader inherited power from his father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011. -- AP

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