North Korea says the US authorities have "literally mugged" its diplomatic delegation in New York, as tensions between Washington and Pyongyang soar.
"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 state-run KCNA news agency quoted a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying on Sunday.
He added that the "illegal and heinous act of provocation" occurred at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday as the delegation was returning from a UN conference on the rights of the disabled, officially known as the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“This clearly shows that the US is a felonious and lawless gangster state,” he said, adding that the international community should seriously question the prestige of New York as a place where international meetings are held.
According to the KCNA report on the incident, over 20 officials, who claimed to be with the US Department of Homeland Security and police, "made a violent assault like gangsters to take away the diplomatic package from the diplomats." It added that the delegation was in possession of valid diplomatic courrier certificate.
The White House and the US State Department had issued no immediate comment on the North's statement.
Pyongyang warned that if the White House failed to give due response to the North's "reasonable and fair demand" on the incident, it would be "totally responsible" for all the consequences.
North Korea's statement came amid the latest tensions between the two archenemies, which occurred following Pyongyang's release of American student Otto Warmbier, whose parents said he was in a coma after being held by the Far East Asian country for the past 17 months.
Over the past weeks, Washington and Pyongyang have also traded a barrage of military threats. Washington says it is concerned by North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests. Pyongyang, defying successive UN sanctions and international pressure, says it will continue to strengthen its military capability to protect itself from the threat posed by the presence of US forces in the region.
North Korea says it will not give up on its nuclear deterrence unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward Pyongyang and dissolves the US-led UN command in South Korea.