BEIJING - Retired US basketball star Dennis Rodman said on Thursday he was not going to North Korea to talk about politics or human rights, despite political tension surrounding the execution of leader Kim Jong Un's uncle.
Rodman has visited Pyongyang twice before, spending time dining as a guest of Kim, with whom he says he has a genuine friendship.
His latest visit follows the rare public purge of Kim's powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek, who was executed last week.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has described recent events as a "reign of terror". The purging of Jang, considered the second most powerful man in the North, indicated factionalism within the secretive Pyongyang government.
"It has nothing to do with me. I mean, whatever his uncle has done, and whoever's done anything in North Korea, I have no control over that. I mean, these things have been going on for years and years and years," Rodman told Reuters at his hotel in Beijing on Thursday before he left for the airport.
"I'm just going over there to do a basketball game and have some fun," he said.
The US State Department has sought to distance the US government from Rodman's visit.
Ahead of the trip, Seoul-based North Korean human rights activist Shin Dong-hyuk said in an open letter in the Washington Post that Rodman should talk to Kim about human rights abuses in North Korea.
Rodman said it was not his place to talk about such issues.