Diplomats 'mugged' at JFK airport, North Korea says

By Ed Adamczyk  |  June 19, 2017 at 9:23 AM
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June 19 (UPI) -- North Korea accused U.S. officials of forcibly seizing a diplomatic package and "mugging" a North Korean delegation in a New York City airport.

The incident occurred Friday as the delegation attempted to leave New York City after a United Nations conference, the state-run news service KCNA said. It did not specify the contents of the package, but it questioned whether New York City "is fit to serve as the venue for international meetings."

A spokesman for North Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the alleged incident at John F. Kennedy International Airport "an illegal and heinous act of provocation" and demanded an apology.

More than 20 police officers took part Friday in "a violent assault, like gangsters, to take away the diplomatic package from the [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] diplomats who were in possession of a valid diplomatic courier certificate. 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," KCNA said.

A spokesman for the New York Port Authority, operators of the airport, said its police department was not involved in any incident described by North Korea.

Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., commented, "Whether or not the North Korean account is entirely accurate, their treatment of American student Otto Warmbier takes away North Korea's right to complain about anything. Besides, North Korea is known the world over for using diplomatic pouches for illicit smuggling. If anything, this was good police work."

Warmbier, an American student, was in captivity for 17 months after a conviction for stealing a propaganda poster while visiting North Korea. He was released last week and returned to the United States. He was sent home with brain damage which North Korea attributed to botulism he allegedly contracted after his 2016 trial.

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