Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman is surrounded by the media at Beijing International Airport before he leaves for Pyongyang
Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman is surrounded by the media at Beijing International Airport before he leaves for PyongyangReuters

Former basketball star Dennis Rodman extended his apology for the abusive ranting and controversial remarks he made about an American detained in North Korea, saying that while he was being interviewed by CNN, he had been drinking out of stress.

Rodman's current visit has come under sharp criticism because of the positive comments he keeps making about the controversial North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un; while ignoring the obvious human rights violation record in the reclusive country.

Rodman has reiterated time and again that the North Korean leader is his "friend for life" and that he would never mix politics with his "Basketball Diplomacy," stressing that his visits to the country only marks goodwill if not anything else. But his latest visit was looked at with magnified lenses as it came hardly a month after Kim Jong-un ordered the execution of his own uncle, an incident that left United States and its ally simmering in outrage.

Condemnation against the Basketball hall of famer intensified after Rodman discussed North Korea's detention of Kenneth Bae, an American missionary held captive in North Korea in a much talked-about CNN interview on Tuesday.

Asked whether he would talk to Kim Jong-un and seek help in the release of Bae, Rodman rumbled into an angry tantrum and appeared to suggest that Kenneth Bae deserved to be kept in North Korea prison. "Kenneth Bae did one thing. If you understand what Kenneth Bae you understand what he did in his country?" he asked, seeming to imply that Bae had done something wrong without specifying what he had done.

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The live interview became heated when the NBA star condemned the media's largely negative coverage on his North Korea visit and said in angry outburst, "I don't give a rat's ass what the hell you think".

On Thursday, however, Rodman expressed regret for those remarks in an email sent to The Associated Press through his publicist. He said that he took full responsibility for his actions and he had been through a very stressful day, since some of his teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates.

"My dreams of basketball diplomacy were quickly falling apart. I had been drinking. It's not an excuse but by the time the interview happened I was upset," Rodman said. "I want to first apologize to Kennet Bae's family. I want to apologize to my teammates and my management team. I embarrassed a lot of people. I'm very sorry. At this point I should know better than to make political statements. I'm truly sorry."

The United States is miffed because Dennis Rodman has portrayed his trip to be an exercise to improve relationship with a nation that has, in the past, threatened to reduce Washington and Seoul to "a sea of fire" through a nuclear attack. On Wednesday, he led a group of retired National Basketball Association players in an exhibition game against a North Korean team planned as an event for Kim Jong-un's birthday celebration.

Television footage from North Korea showed a joyful Rodman singing "happy birthday" to the leader over a microphone in the basketball field before the game began. That was exactly when Americans back home were ceaselessly discussing the much despised game and Rodman's comments.

Captive Bae's sister Terri Chung, issued a statement criticizing the former NBA star.

"There is nothing diplomatic about his trip," she said. "My family and I are outraged by Rodman's recent comments. He is playing games with my brother's life. There is no diplomacy, only games, and at my brother's expense."

Bae was sentenced to 15 years in a labor camp by North Korea last year on charges that he had intended to topple the government, much to the chagrin of the United States.

North Korea is angry with the US because its underground nuclear test conducted in February last year invited a series of brutal sanctions from the US. The joint US-South Korean military drill that followed shortly after the event left the reclusive communist regime simmering in angry tantrums. 

Thousands of loyal North Koreas gathered in the capital's main square on Tuesday to hold a mass rally as part of series of activities planned for the leader's birthday on Wednesday, the Telegraph reported.