North Korea accuses U.S. authorities of 'mugging' its diplomats at NY airport


SEOUL, June 18 (Reuters) - North Korea accused U.S. authorities on Sunday of "mugging" its diplomats at the John F. Kennedy airport in New York, forcibly confiscating a diplomatic package which it said raised questions about the city as the seat of the United Nations.

The North's Foreign Ministry spokesman said a delegation of the North returning from a U.N. conference on the rights of persons with disabilities "was literally mugged" at the John F. Kennedy airport in "an illegal and heinous act of provocation."

RELATED: Otto Warmbier: A timeline of the student's North Korea imprisonment

14 PHOTOS
Otto Warmbier: A timeline of the student's North Korea imprisonment
See Gallery
Otto Warmbier: A timeline of the student's North Korea imprisonment

January 2016: Warmbier is imprisoned in North Korea, charged with stealing an item that had a state propaganda slogan on it.

March 2016: Warmbier is sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea

March 2016 - 2017: The United States advocates for North Korea's allowing Sweden access to Warmbier and three other American citizens, pushing for their release.

January 2017: President Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, signaling a seat change in American foreign diplomacy.

February 2017: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson briefs President Trump on the situation surrounding Warmbier's imprisonment in North Korea.Trump directs Tillerson to take all appropriate measures in securing the release of U.S. hostages in North Korea.

May 2017:  The U.S. State Department and North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs hold a meeting in Oslo, Norway, during which they agree to the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang's access to all four detainees. Sweden is later granted these visitation rights, prompting North Korea to request a meeting with the United States.

June 6, 2017 - State Department Special Representative Joseph Yun meets with North Korean ambassador Pak Gil Yon at the United Nations in New York. Yun learns during this meeting that Warmbier has been in a coma for over a year.

June 6-11, 2017: Secretary of State Tillerson instructs Yun to travel to North Korea with the mission of bringing back Warmbier. They travel with a medical team to Pyongyang.

June 12, 2017: Through Yun, the United States is able for the first time to confirm Warmbier's status. The U.S. demands Warmbier be released on humanitarian conditions. North Korea complies.

June 13, 2017: Warmbier is evacuated from North Korea, travels to Ohio where he will reunite with his family.

June 13, 2017: Otto Warmbier arrives home to Cincinnati, Ohio
June 15, 2017: Otto Warmbier's father, Fred, speaks out during a press conference on his son's return home.
June 15, 2017: Doctors give updates on Warmbier's status during a news conference at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"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," the spokesman said.

"This clearly shows that the U.S. is a felonious and lawless gangster state," the spokesman said in comments carried by the North's official KCNA news agency.

"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," KCNA said.

The State Department and White House had no immediate comment on the North Korean statement.

KCNA said the incident took place on June 16 when more than 20 officials who claimed to be from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and police "made a violent assault like gangsters to take away the diplomatic package from the diplomats."

The diplomats were in possession of a valid diplomatic courier certificate, KCNA said.

The claim comes amid diplomatic tensions after the North released American student Otto Warmbier whose parents said he was in a coma after being held by the North for 17 months.

Warmbier, 22, who arrived in the United States on Tuesday, is stable but "shows no sign of understanding language, responding to verbal commands or awareness of his surrounding," a doctor at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed sanctions against North Korea for the reclusive state's nuclear and ballistic missile activities.

The North, which is a member state of the United Nations, has rejected the resolutions as infringements of its right to self defense and space exploration.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)


Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.