Officials Seize North Korean Diplomatic Package at JFK

NEW YORK (AP) -

North Korea on Sunday accused U.S. officials of forcibly seizing a diplomatic package from one of their delegations at Kennedy Airport, calling it an “illegal and heinous act of provocation.”

The official Korean Central News Agency said officials were returning from a U.N. conference on rights of persons with disabilities Friday when they were “literally mugged.”

“At the airport, a group of more than 20 including those who claimed to be from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the police officers made a violent assault like gangsters to take away the diplomatic package from the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) diplomats who were in possession of a valid diplomatic courier certificate,” a spokesman for North Korea’s foreign ministry told the news agency.

“As the diplomats vigorously resisted, they grabbed the diplomatic package using physical violence and made off,” the North Korean spokesman said.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan said Sunday its officers did seize multiple media items and packages from three North Koreans who were not accredited members of North Korea’s Mission to the U.N. and had no diplomatic immunity.

“The package in question had no diplomatic protection from inspection,” said Lapan, adding that North Koreans attempted to physically retrieve the items but were prevented from doing so by DHS 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.”