Dennis Rodman. Pic: AP.

BEIJING (AP) — Former NBA star Dennis Rodman is flying to North Korea to help train the national team and renew his friendship with the North’s young leader Kim Jong Un, a visit unaffected by the recent execution of Kim’s uncle in a dramatic political purge.

Rodman told reporters at Beijing’s airport he expected to meet with Kim and arrange a Jan. 8 international tournament in Pyongyang marking the leader’s birthday.

His visit comes less than a week after North Korea announced the execution of No. 2 official Jang Song Thaek in its most serious political upheaval in decades.

The flamboyant Rodman is the highest-profile American to meet Kim since Kim inherited power from father Kim Jong Il in 2011. He traveled to the secretive communist state for the first time in February.