Dennis Rodman, former NBA star and friend of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un , said that he’d ask for the release of imprisoned American Kenneth Bae next time he’s in the country.
Rodman told Marc Lamont Hill on Huffington Post Live that he’s not a diplomat and is just Jong Un’s friend, and they typically don’t talk about policies or similar subjects.
“He’s just a friend of mine,” said Rodman. “We just talk about basketball and life, we just talk about life in general, his school, my school, things like that.”
But after several minutes of conversation Rodman said he would definitely ask Jong Un to release Bae.
“I will ask it in a way, ‘Marshal, why is this guy held hostage?'” said Rodman. “I’ll try to soften it up like that. I’ll do that.”
Kenneth Bae, 45, is a tour operator and Christian missionary who was arrested last November and accused of committing “hostile acts” against North Korea.
His sister recently said Bae was moved from a labor camp to a hospital after he had lost more than 50 pounds.
Rodman’s comments come as Bob King, a senior U.S. envoy, prepares to travel to North Korea later this week and strongly appeal for the release of Bae.
“We’re going to make an appeal,” King said. “He (Bae) has health problems and we’re hopeful we will be able to make progress on that.”
Before Rodman said he would definitely bring Bae’s release up, he said that he doesn’t wany to discuss politics with Jong Un.
When asked about a tweet sent out from his Twitter account asking for the release of Bae, Rodman said he hadn’t sent it.
“I think one of my people sent that. When I saw that I got pissed,” he said. “I’m not actually this diplomat.”
Rodman said that if he did end up getting Bae released, he would be a powerful person.
“If I even went over there, if Marshal says ‘Dennis, you want me to let him loose’, and then if I actually got him loose–and I’m just saying this out of the blue–then I’d be the most powerful man in the world,” he said.
Hill, the interviewer, stayed on the subject to get a firm commitment from Rodman.
At first, Rodman said he might not be able to.
“I would try to squeeze it in in all the conversation,” he said at one point.
“If Obama can’t do it, what makes you think I can do it?” he said later on.
Hill finally asked for a definitive promise that Rodman would ask for the release.
“I will definitely ask for Kenneth Bae’s release. I will ask it in a way, ‘Marshal, why is this guy held hostage?'” said Rodman. “I’ll try to soften it up like that. I’ll do that.”
It’s unclear when Rodman plans on going back to North Korea. He previously said he would go on a vacation there on August 1.
He didn’t name a date during the August 28 interview but said that he recently told Jong Un that he would be in Beijing in China soon.
Beijing, he said, “is just a hop, skip, and jump away.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.