Retired U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman led North Koreans in singing "Happy Birthday" to the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, before a planned basketball game Wednesday in Pyongyang.
Rodman and other National Basketball Association players are visiting the isolated and impoverished country as part of a so-called "basketball diplomacy" trip that has been widely criticized in the U.S.
Witnesses and reporters say a crowd of around 14,000 at a Pyongyang auditorium clapped loudly as the eccentric Rodman sang to Mr. Kim, the head of a government accused of some of the world's worst rights abuses.
Rodman has defended his trip as an effort to "open the door" to North Korea. The former NBA All-Star has said it is not his job to bring up politics with the North Korean leader, who he has referred to as a "good guy" and a "friend for life."
State Department and White House officials have stressed that Rodman's trip is unhelpful and not sanctioned by the U.S.