Dennis Rodman back in North Korea

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CNN – Dennis Rodman’s latest round of controversial “basketball diplomacy” in a country ruled by one of the world’s most repressive regimes is about to begin.

The former NBA star and a documentary crew are due to fly Thursday afternoon from China to North Korea, where he is to spend four days helping train a team of North Korean basketball players for a January exhibition in Pyongyang.

That January 8 exhibition — said to be against a yet-unannounced team of former NBA players — will celebrate the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whom Rodman has called a friend and a “very good guy” despite international condemnation of the country’s human rights records.

Rodman’s trip — sponsored by the UK-based online betting company Paddy Power — is the 52-year-old’s third to North Korea.

Rodman said he struck a friendship with Kim, a basketball fan, during Rodman’s first trip in February. After the two men sat next to each other watching a basketball exhibition in North Korea’s capital, Rodman told Kim that “you have a friend for life.”

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