North Korea accuses US of ‘mugging’ its diplomats of a package at JFK airport.
Those diplomats were in the process of departing via JFK International Airport Friday following a UN conference when North Korea alleges a package its diplomats were transporting was seized by more than 20 Department of Homeland Security and police personnel, reports the New York Times. No word on what was in the package.
‘The international community needs to seriously reconsider whether or not New York, where such an outrageous mugging is rampant, is fit to serve as the venue for international meetings,’ the government fumed in a statement.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK regards this mugging by the U.S. as an intolerable act of infringement upon the sovereignty of the DPRK and a malicious provocation, and strongly condemns it in the name of the government of the DPRK,” the spokesman was quoted as saying.
A Foreign Ministry rep is quoted by the Korean Central News Agency as saying the North Koreans “vigorously resisted” and that the package was taken from them “using physical violence.”
According to KNCA, the officials were in possession of a valid diplomatic courier certificate, which means they should have been able to pass through security unhindered.
In a statement to The Japan Times, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security disputed the North’s claims, saying DHS officers assigned to the airport had assisted in the inspection of three North Korean nationals.
“According to the U.S. State Department, the North Korean citizens were not accredited members of North Korea’s Mission to the U.N. and had no entitlement to diplomatic immunity,” said David Lapan, DHS deputy assistant secretary for media operations. “The package in question had no diplomatic protection from inspection.”
Lapan said DHS officers seized multiple media items and packages from the individuals, which the North Koreans attempted to physically retrieve, but were prevented from doing so by the officers.
“The reported aggression was initiated by the North Koreans,” Lapan said. “The individuals were released without further incident but subsequently refused to board their departing flight without the items that had been seized.”
The State Department and White House had no immediate comment on the North Korean statement.
The official statement warned of ‘grave consequences’ and concluded by demanding an apology from the US government.
‘If the US fails to give its due response to our demand which is all too reasonable and fair enough, it will be totally responsible for all the consequences to be entailed,’ it said.