Kim Jong Un meets with retired U.S. basketball Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman in Pyongyang in January 2014. Rodman is in North Korea this week, but may not have yet met with the North Korean leader. File Photo by EPA/KCNA
June 14 (UPI) -- China may be taking an interest in Dennis Rodman's visit to North Korea, after the retired U.S. basketball Hall-of-Famer was seen at a Beijing airport boarding a flight for Pyongyang.
Chinese state tabloid Global Times issued an editorial on Tuesday saying the sports celebrity was not visiting North Korea to conduct "basketball diplomacy," but to make a "no-fuss trip" to the relatively isolated country.
Upon his arrival in North Korea on Tuesday, however, Rodman said he was "just trying to open a door" during a period of high tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.
North Korea has test-fired several missiles in 2017, and the provocations have culminated in new sanctions against the regime, both at the United Nations Security Council and in U.S. Congress.
"Will Rodman's trip to Pyongyang have a political impact this time?" the editorial stated. "Whether or not Rodman's basketball diplomacy will leave a mark in history will probably depend on luck."
The editorial took a critical approach to the trip.
"Rodman expects his basketball diplomacy to have a dramatic impact on the diplomatic stalemate between North Korea and the United States," the Global Times stated. "Although four [Rodman] visits to Pyongyang from 2013 to 2014 led to a close personal relationship with Kim Jong Un and helped with the release of Kenneth Bae, it did not have a positive impact on U.S.-North Korea diplomatic relations."
In 2014, Rodman called attention to the imprisonment of Bae, a U.S. citizen and missionary who had been in North Korea detention for two years.
Bae has said Rodman's plea to Kim to "do me a solid" and other public remarks was the catalyst for his release.
The former basketball player also has ties to U.S. President Donald Trump, and was a former contestant on the Celebrity Apprentice, Trump's reality television show.
Rodman expressed support for Trump in the course of his presidential campaign in 2016, and Trump approved of Rodman's past trips, Fox News reported.
Rodman may have not yet met with Kim, and was seen Wednesday on a tour of state-sanctioned landmarks, including Mangyongdae, the official birthplace of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung.