Eccentric former basketball star Dennis Rodman may not have brought imprisoned American Kenneth Bae back with him from North Korea, but he did emerge with something to announce.
Along with representatives from Paddy Power, an online betting company, he will put together a "basketball diplomacy" event involving players from North Korea, he said Monday.
At a news conference, he called Kim Jong Un, ruler of the repressive state, a "very good guy."
Rodman also set tongues wagging over the weekend by leaking the purported name of Kim's baby daughter.
Returning from his second trip to the reclusive, nuclear-armed nation, Rodman gave an interview Sunday with The Guardian, a British newspaper, in which he described the "relaxing time by the sea" he spent with Kim and his family.
'A good dad'
The personal life of Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, is shrouded in secrecy. Even his exact age remains unconfirmed by outsiders. (He is believed to be in his early 30s.)
Speculation sprang up last year that Ri might be pregnant after a photo carried by state media showed her wearing a long coat that could have been hiding a bump. But North Korean authorities kept quiet about the matter.
The flamboyant Rodman, 52, shed more light on the situation in his Guardian interview, including the daughter's name.
"I held their baby Ju Ae and spoke with Ms. Ri as well," he told the newspaper.
He described Kim, who sits atop one of the world's most repressive regimes, as "a good dad."
The Kim dynasty has ruled North Korea for three generations. Kim Jong Un follows his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung.
The regime has pursued the development of nuclear weapons while millions of its subjects have been left impoverished and malnourished.
It's a little early to start speculating whether Ju Ae is a likely heir to her father, said Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University in South Korea.
Lankov, the author of the recent book "The Real North Korea," said the question of succession was unlikely to arise for at least another 30 years, assuming Kim Jong Un remains healthy.
"And I don't believe the North Korean monarchy is going to last another 30 years," he said. If it does, Kim and Ri are young enough to have several other children in the meantime.
"I wouldn't be surprised if they have five more," he said.
American still imprisoned
Rodman had already poured cold water on speculation he might have been trying to secure the release of Bae, the U.S. citizen serving a 15-year sentence of hard labor in North Korea.
"It is not my job to talk about Kenneth Bae," he told reporters at the Beijing airport on Saturday.
"Ask Obama about that, ask Hillary Clinton about that," Rodman said. "Ask those ---holes."
Rodman had previously made no secret about his desire to help Bae, who has been transferred to a hospital after his health deteriorated. The retired NBA player once tweeted that he wanted Kim to "do him a solid" by freeing the American prisoner.
But Rodman's friendship with Kim, an avid basketball fan, doesn't appear to carry enough weight to get Bae out of jail.
U.S. officials have repeatedly called on North Korean officials to release Bae, who was convicted earlier this year of attempting to bring down the government. Pyongyang last month abruptly withdrew an invitation to a U.S. envoy who was to travel there to try to secure Bae's release.