BEIJING (AP) — Basketball star Dennis Rodman is heading to North Korea for the second time this year for what he says is a friendly visit to his friend, the communist nation's leader, Kim Jong Un.

But he is playing down speculation his trip is aimed at freeing jailed American missionary Kenneth Bae — saying there's been "nothing promised." Rodman spoke briefly to reporters Tuesday while transiting at Beijing's airport on his way to Pyongyang.

"I'm going to North Korea to meet my friend, Kim," he said. "It's a friendly gesture."

Rodman first met Kim — a basketball fan — during a visit in February to promote the sport and make a film. U. S. officials frowned on the trip for giving Kim a propaganda boost, but Rodman suggested "basketball diplomacy" could warm relations.

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