Former NBA star Dennis Rodman is flying to North Korea to help train the national basketball team and renew his friendship with the North's young leader Kim Jong Un.
The visit has been 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 Kim and arrange a international tournament on January 8 in Pyongyang to mark the leader's birthday.
His visit comes less than a week after North Korea announced the execution of Jang Song Thaek in its most serious political upheaval in decades.
The flamboyant Rodman is the highest-profile American to meet Kim since he inherited power from father Kim Jong Il in 2011. He travelled to the secretive communist state for the first time in February.