Rodman’s North Korea trip still on for next week

(AP)

Dennis Rodman plans to travel to North Korea next week to train its basketball team, a trip unaffected by the execution of leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle.

Jang Song Thaek’s execution, announced early Friday in Pyongyang, marked an unprecedented fall from grace of one of the most powerful figures in the country as well as its most serious political upheaval in decades. Jang was North Korea’s No. 2 official, behind only Kim.

Rodman considers Kim a close friend and has a long-scheduled trip that starts Monday to train the national team. Rodman also has organized an exhibition game in January in Pyongyang to celebrate Kim’s birthday. Rodman could reveal the roster next week. He says former professional basketball players have committed to the game, though he declined to reveal names.

The U.S. says it is consulting with regional lpartners about the internal situation in North Korea after the execution of leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle

The White House says there’s a concern about the possibility of external provocations by Pyongyang.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the execution of Jang Song Thaek, announced Friday, underscored the brutality of the nation’s authoritarian government and its dire human rights record.

North Korea’s state-run media said Jang had been executed as a traitor. He was long considered the country’s second most powerful figure.

Harf says Washington is focused on the need for North Korea to denuclearize.

She said the U.S. would deepen its discussions with allies South Korea and Japan, and Russia and China, its partners in long-stalled aid-for-disarmament negotiations with the North.

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