“I’m calling on the supreme leader of North Korea, or as I call him, Kim, to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose,” Rodman said on Twitter. He called the tweet a direct response to a Seattle Times editorial that dared him to ask Kim for the release if the two are really buddies.
Rodman visited North Korea in February and sat next to Kim as they watched an exhibition basketball game. His trip came at a time of high tension between Pyongyang and Washington and was not endorsed by the US State Department.
Bae is a tour operator who was arrested in North Korea in November. The country’s Supreme Court sentenced him last week for unspecified “hostile acts” against the state. In a foreign ministry statement on Sunday, North Korea said the 44-year-old Washington state man entered the country with a disguised identity.
Bae is at least the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009. The others were deported or released, some after trips to Pyongyang by prominent Americans, including former US presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry rejected speculation that it was seeking a US envoy to negotiate Bae’s release, saying he is not a political bargaining chip.
Analysts have said North Korea may be using Bae as bait to open direct negotiations with the US over its nuclear arms programmes.
Friends say Bae is a devout Christian and tour operator based in China who travelled frequently to the country to feed orphans.
Rodman plans to return to North Korea in August to holiday with Kim.