North Korea said several US law enforcement agency personnel made a "violent assault" on Pyongyang's diplomatic delegation and robbed them of a "diplomatic package" at the John F Kennedy International Airport in New York. The rogue nation said the incident will not go without a response and pledged there will be "grave consequences".
The North Korean foreign ministry said the delegates were "literally mugged" by the US forces and accused them of robbing their belongings as well. The ministry added that the American personnel forcibly confiscated materials, raising questions about New York as a city hosting the UN headquarters.
"Diplomats of a sovereign state are being robbed of a diplomatic package in the middle of New York where the headquarters of the United Nations is located and that serves as the venue for international meetings including the United Nations General Assembly," said the unnamed foreign ministry spokesman, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). "This clearly shows that the US is a felonious and lawless gangster state."
The report did not divulge details about what kind of materials were seized from the diplomats but sternly demanded an apology and explanation from the US officials.
The North Korean delegation was said to be returning from a UN conference in New York when they were confronted by a group of about 20 people from what appeared to the Department of Homeland Security. While the incident is reported to have taken place on Friday, 16 June, the North Korean dispatch was issued on Sunday, 18 June.
In response, the US Department of Homeland Security said its officers were involved in the encounter but said the North Korean nationals were not accredited diplomats. "According to the US State Department, the North Korean citizens were not accredited members of North Korea's mission to the UN and had no entitlement to diplomatic immunity. The package in question had no protection from inspection," read a statement.
The international incident comes at a delicate period of unfriendly relations between the US and North Korea. Both the nations have stepped up their aggressive stance against each other in recent months.