Rodman backs Trump as he arrives at summit
FORMER NBA star Dennis Rodman arrived in Singapore around midnight Monday, hours before President Donald Trump was set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the first time.
Rodman, who has an unlikely friendship with Kim and is an informal diplomat of basketball to North Korea, told reporters at Changi airport that he came to Singapore "to see what's going on" and that he hopes "that things turn out to be well for everyone in the world."
Trump and Kim are meeting today in what the US hopes will be the start of negotiations to eliminate North Korea's rapidly advancing nuclear weapons program.
The NBA legend told Sun Online he wants a front row seat for the historic event and hailed the US President as the "best negotiator in the world".
He said: "I'm out there for the next three days as I didn't want to miss such a historic event.
"I'm one of a few people on the planet friends with President Trump and Marshall Kim Jong Un.
Rodman added: "I know President Trump is the best negotiator in the world and looking forward to a historic outcome for the world."
He told reporters he wasn't sure if he would meet either world leader during his stay, but said he wanted to be close for the summit.
The retired Hall-of-Famer, who endorsed Trump for president, is one of the few westerners to have met the North Korean leader on visits to the capital city of Pyongyang.
Asked if he would meet Kim in Singapore, the ex-basketball player said he thinks the North Korean leader "has bigger things to worry about than seeing me right now."
He added though that every time he has met with Kim it has been a surprise.
White House officials have said Rodman will play no official role in the diplomatic negotiations.
Trump said last week that Rodman had not been invited to the summit.
Rodman arrived in Singapore wearing a T-shirt promoting PotCoin, which has sponsored his travel to North Korea in the past. The cryptocurrency company gives marijuana businesses access to banking as an alternative to many financial institutions that will not do business with cannabis companies because marijuana is illegal under US federal law.
DENNIS AND KIM'S UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIP: HOW IT HAPPENED
Kim is renowned as a diehard basketball supporter who supports the Chicago Bulls and became a huge fan of Rodman when he played for the time alongside Michael Jordan.
The North Korean leader invited Rodman to Pyongyang for the pair's first meeting back in March 2013.
Rodman traveled with three players from the Harlem Globetrotters and a group of journalists from Vice to meet the reclusive leader.
The two seemed to hit it off immediately, pictured hugging and smiling.
And it didn't end there, with their bond building in the years since.
Rodman made more trips to North Korea, and sometimes travelled with some of his teammates, where he spent quality time with Kim.
The Hall-of-Famer sparked scrutiny in January 2014 when he infamously sang "Happy Birthday" to Kim on the basketball court and seemingly bowed to the North Korean leader.
Following the incident, he then appeared to defend North Korea's imprisonment of American missionary Kenneth Bae in an interview.
"Kenneth Bae did one thing ... If you understand what Kenneth Bae did. Do you understand what he did in this country? No, no, no, you tell me, you tell me. Why is he held captive here in this country, why? ... I would love to speak on this," Rodman told CNN when asked whether he would raise Bae's release in talks with Kim.
Bae's family and officials from the US hit back at his comments, which caused public uproar and forced Rodman to apologise.
He wrote a letter in November 2014 addressed to "My dear friend for life, Marshall Kim Jong Un," asking for Bae's release.
Bae was released later that week after being detained for two years and thanked Rodman for making the comments, which he said became "a catalyst for my release".
Interestingly, last year Rodman presented North Korea's sports minister with a copy of Trump's 1987 book, The Art of the Deal as a gift to Kim.
Trump was Rodman's boss on two seasons of The Celebrity Apprentice, with the basketball legend endorsing him during his presidential campaign.
"@realDonaldTrump has been a great friend for many years. We don't need another politician, we need a businessman like Mr. Trump! Trump 2016," he tweeted.