North Korea: US officials seized diplomatic package at JFK

N. Korea says US 'mugged' delegation

The official dispatched by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un - Madame Choi Sun Hee - is well known to USA officials, fluent in English and is believed to have direct access to Mr. Kim.

The North Korean foreign ministry said the delegates were "literally mugged" by the USA forces and accused them of robbing their belongings as well.

North Korea has accused the US of stealing a package from its diplomats returning from a conference in NY.

North Korea alleged on Sunday that US customs "literally mugged" diplomats after they landed at JFK Kennedy Airport in NY.

Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in North Korea, criticized North Korea's treatment of Warmbier, saying in a statement the onus is on Pyongyang to "clarify the causes and circumstances of the release". While the incident is reported to have taken place on Friday, 16 June, the North Korean dispatch was issued on Sunday, 18 June.

North Korea's JFK "mugging" claim - that its delegation was roughed up there by USA agents who grabbed a legal "diplomatic package" - has been countered by the Department of Homeland Security saying three North Koreans were confronted at the airport but they had no diplomatic status. It did not specify the contents of the package, but it questioned whether New York City "is fit to serve as the venue for worldwide meetings".

Lapan added the package in question also had no diplomatic protection from inspection. They refused to board their departing flight without the items that had been seized.

"The US owes the DPRK a good explanation of its act of infringement upon the sovereignty of the DPRK and an official apology on behalf of the USA government", the ministry said.

"If the US fails to give its due response to our demand which is all too reasonable and fair enough, it will be totally responsible for all the consequences to be entailed", the spokesman added.

Relations between North and South Korea have taken a turn for the worse after North Korea said its southern rival should adopt a "hands-off" policy regarding Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, which it said were a matter exclusively for North Korea and the US.

The incident also comes just days after North Korea released U.S. detainee Otto Warmbier after 17 months in detention.

North Korea said he had contracted botulism before slipping into a coma, but USA doctors said there was no evidence of that.

While three more USA nationals are still being held in the North, Warmbier's release has stoked speculation of a thaw in relations. The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that U.S. diplomats have already held discussions for more than a year with North Korea's top nuclear negotiator, focused on freeing American prisoners.

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