SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Sunday accused United States officials of “mugging” its diplomats at Kennedy International Airport by seizing a diplomatic package they were carrying.
A North Korean delegation, returning home from a United Nations conference in New York, was about to board a plane on Friday when more than 20 agents and police officers from the Department of Homeland Security confiscated the package, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman saying.
“As the diplomats vigorously resisted, they grabbed the diplomatic package using physical violence and made off,” the spokesman said, adding that the North Koreans were carrying a valid diplomatic courier certificate.
“This clearly shows that the U.S. is a felonious and lawless gangster state,” the spokesman said. “The U.S. should reflect on its reckless act and be fully aware of the grave consequences to follow.”
The spokesman said North Korea “regards this mugging by the U.S. as an intolerable act of infringement upon the sovereignty” of the country, and demanded an explanation and an apology. The spokesman was not quoted by name, as is common in North Korean news reports.
He did not disclose what the diplomatic package contained.
There was no immediate reaction from the Department of Homeland Security.
North Korea said its delegation was returning home after attending a session of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The controversy comes at a sensitive time in relations between North Korea and the United States. On Tuesday, North Korea released an American college student, Otto F. Warmbier, who is in a coma after 17 months of captivity. American doctors said Mr. Warmbier had sustained extensive brain damage. North Korea said that it had freed him on “humanitarian grounds” but did not reveal details of his medical condition.
Mr. Warmbier was detained in January 2016 while trying to leave North Korea, which he visited on a tourist visa. He was subsequently sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on charges of committing the “hostile act” of stealing a political poster from a wall in his hotel.