Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman has said Kim Jong-un is “probably a madman” in a interview discussing his intimate meetings with the reclusive North Korean leader.
Rodman, who is one of the few westerners to have met the dictator, also described Mr Kim as “like a kid” in an appearance on the US chat show, The Late Show.
However Mr Rodman side-stepped questions about the dictator's human rights record saying he didn’t “discuss politics” with Mr Kim, adding “that's not my job”.
The former Chicago Bulls player has visited the hermit nation three times since 2013 to meet with Mr Kim, who is said to be a diehard basketball fan.
Speaking about their encounters, Mr Rodman said he and Mr Kim largely discussed basketball and not politics when they met.
When The Late Show host, Stephen Colbert, described Mr Kim as a “madman murderous dictator” Mr Rodman responded: “I am just not going to judge... we are all human beings.”
He then added: “It's funny though, I don't see how people can sit there and say this person's a madman. He probably is, but I didn't see that. He probably is.”
Mr Rodman’s one-on-one meetings with Mr Kim offer a rare glimpse into the secretive autocrat's life and personality.
His Pyongyang regime controls information coming out of the country so tightly that basic details such as Mr Kim’s age and how many children he has are unknown.
A former senior advisor to Barack Obama, Jon Wolfsthal, said earlier this year “we don’t know what Kim Jong-un has for breakfast”.
Describing his conversations with Mr Kim, Mr Rodman said: "He has spoken to me the last time I was there, a couple of years ago, and he said 'I don't want war' - these are his true words - 'I don't want war'.
“I would take you over there and let you listen to him, the way he talks. He sounds more like a kid than anything.”
Tensions between North Korea and the US have been ratcheting up over the Kim regime’s continued efforts to develop inter-continental nuclear weapons.
Kim Jong-un profile
In recent months the US President, Donald Trump, has engaged in an exchange of increasingly personal invective with Mr Kim, referring to the North Korean leader on multiple occasions as “little rocket man”.
Earlier this month a North Korean foreign ministry official said the outbreak of war with the US has become “an established fact” in a statement published in official state media.
Mr Rodman appeared on The Late Show this week in wearing a T-shirt printed with photos of himself, Mr Kim and Mr Trump under the word "unite" and said he hoped he could “open the door” to communication between North Korea and the US.
However he struggled when questioned about Mr Kim’s brutal human rights record and penchant for executing family members.
When asked by Mr Colbert about Mr Kim ordering the killing of his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, Mr Rodman replied: “Is that what he did? If you see the video of the basketball game [he attended with Mr Kim in 2014] and you actually see his uncle standing right behind the bench.”
The exchange ended with Mr Colbert pointing out Mr Kim may have more than one uncle.