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Arizona shopping trip fuels NY fracas between North Korea, US officials

(AP Photo/Josh Reynolds, File)

PHOENIX — An Arizona shopping trip reportedly fueled a kerfuffle between United States law enforcement and North Korean officials at a New York airport.

The Los Angeles Times reported the scuffle happened after Department of Homeland Security officers seized “multiple media items and packages from the individuals, at which time the North Koreans attempted to physically retrieve the items” at John. F. Kennedy International Airport.

The paper said the North Koreans were in New York to attend a convention on disability rights at the United Nations. However, some of the delegation allegedly traveled to Arizona to buy technology-related items that may be banned under sanctions law.

North Korean officials — along with those from Iraq and Syria — are not allowed to travel more than 25 miles from New York City without permission.

“This was a lot farther than that,’’ a U.S. official who requested to not be named told the Times.

Arizona is more than 2,000 miles from New York City.

The state-run KCNA called the airport incident a mugging.

“This mugging act of the U.S. serves as a graphic account telling the world how reckless and despicable the U.S. hostile policy towards the DPRK has become,” a post about the incident read.

The U.S. said the North Koreans involved did not have diplomatic immunity.

Homeland Security said in its statement that the North Koreans were “not accredited members of North Korea’s Mission to the U.N. and had no entitlement to diplomatic immunity. The package in question had no diplomatic protection from inspection.”

“The individuals were released without further incident but subsequently refused to board their departing flight without the items that had been seized,’’ the statement said.

North Korean officials have been previously accused of using their diplomatic immunity to smuggle counterfeit items. U.S. officials said that was not the case in the New York seizure.

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