The U.S. Department of State on Wednesday confirmed it had returned a package to North Korea after officials seized it from a DPRK delegation at New York’s JFK airport in June.
The news follows a report from the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) published on Tuesday claiming the U.S. had returned the package and apologized to the North Korean government.
“The U.S. Department of State made an official apology to the DPRK on behalf of the U.S. government acknowledging that its security officials concerned made a mistake,” KCNA reported.
“The U.S. eventually returned the diplomatic package and all its contents to the DPRK.”
In a statement issued to NK News, the State Department said the package had been returned, though did not confirm if Washington had issued an apology, as claimed by DPRK media.
“We are aware that U.S. Customs and Border Protection conducted an outbound inspection of three North Korean citizens at JFK airport on Friday, June 16, 2017,” Anna Richey-Allen, the Department of State East Asia Pacific Spokesperson told NK News. “The package was returned to North Korea’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations on July 17, 2017.”
“I can confirm that two packages that had been seized were returned to North Korea’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations on July,” another State Department official, who asked to remain anonymous, told NK News. “We will not comment on our private diplomatic discussions.”
North Korean media claimed U.S. officials had seized a diplomatic package and claimed its delegation had been “literally mugged”. The North Koreans were returning from a UN human rights convention for persons with disabilities.
In yesterday’s report, KCNA said the U.S. had told them that the incident had taken place because of “over sensitive” security staff, “amid the deteriorating security situation in the U.S.”
But the U.S. denied the package belonged to North Korean diplomats, saying instead they had confiscated several items from three North Koreans who were not accredited members of the DPRK’s delegation to the UN, and as such had no diplomatic immunity.
“The package in question had no diplomatic protection from inspection,” U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesman David Lapan said at the time, adding that any reported aggression had been instigated by the North Korean side.
Speaking to NK News yesterday, Lapan said the DHS stood by its seizure of the package and that “there was no mistake.”
North Korea has been known to abuse its diplomatic privileges in the past. Last year, Bangladesh expelled a one of the DPRK’s diplomatic staff for attempting to smuggle gold. It also surfaced last year that North Korean diplomats in Mozambique were involved in illegal ivory trading.
Additional reporting: Dagyum Ji
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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Featured Image: USA - Washington DC by A. Duarte on 2010-04-04 19:30:01