WASHINGTON - Former basketball star Dennis Rodman claims North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un did not execute his uncle and that he saw him during a recent trip to the Stalinist state.
In an interview with DuJour magazine, the retired athlete known for his tattoos, piercings and flamboyant ways insisted the uncle was still alive, even though North Korean state media reported that Jang Song-Thaek was executed in December for "anti-state acts."
"You could say anything here about North Korea and people would believe it," Rodman said.
"The last time I went there, when they said they killed his girlfriend, they killed his uncle, they just fed him to the dogs... They were standing right behind me."
The journalist conducting the interview then asked him to clarify, pointing out that the North Korean regime has made clear the uncle was executed - but Rodman repeated the claim.
"He was standing right there," Rodman said.
Rodman has been accused of being duped by the Pyongyang regime and pandering to the North Korean leader, singing "Happy Birthday" to Kim at an exhibition basketball game and dismissing evidence of rampant rights abuses and repression.
Rodman said Kim wants to hold discussions with President Barack Obama and has told him the North has nuclear weapons because it is a small country that has to defend itself.
"He really, really wants to talk to Obama. He can't say it enough," Rodman said.
"He's saying that he doesn't want to bomb anybody. He said, 'I don't want to kill Americans.' He loves Americans."