North Korea Claims Official Was Threatened in New York City After Receiving Package with Pictures and Alcohol

A North Korean delegate has claimed that one of his country's senior diplomats was threatened and blackmailed in New York City earlier this year, according to a report published by the United Nations.

The report from the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, a 19-member body tasked with investigating issues from the United States' role as host of the U.N. headquarters, documented a June complaint from a North Korean representative about "the security of missions and the safety of their personnel."

"The representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea stated that, during the previous month, his Mission had urgently requested that the Committee convene a meeting with regard to an incident that had been faced by a senior member of his Mission with ambassadorial rank," the report read. "He stated that, on the evening of 29 April 2019, an unidentified man had gone to the building where the senior member resides, dropped off a small package at the apartment and rushed away."

"He stated that the package had contained a blackmail letter, two small bottles allegedly containing alcohol, and three pictures of a parking garage used by the senior official, which was marked with an X in chalk," the report continued. "He stated that the letter had contained a demand addressed to the senior official that he cooperate with a certain organization through a secret contact, failing which his personal security would be at risk."

north korea united nations general assembly
Chair of the delegation of North Korea, Kim Song speaks the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 30 at the U.N. Headquarters in New York City. North Korea and the U.S. do not have formal diplomatic ties, but their diplomats are protected by international treaties when visiting one another's countries. DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

The official reportedly contacted the New York Police Department immediately and had several subsequent meetings with police detectives. Despite sending two follow-up letters, however, North Korea's U.N. mission said it "had not received any information regarding the investigation."

"He further stated that that incident was clearly provocative, threatening towards a senior officer of his Mission and directly linked to the safety of the Mission itself and its personnel," the report read. "He stated that it was his delegation's firm belief that it was the obligation of the United States, as the host country, to ensure the personal safety of all staff of all missions to the United Nations."

Failure to conduct a "prompt investigation" to "hunt down the criminals and bring them to justice," the official charged, would amount to violations of the 1947 Headquarters Agreement that granted New York City hosting status and the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that affords special protections to diplomats in foreign countries. Both treaties have been signed and ratified by Pyongyang and Washington.

Following news of the incident, representatives of Bolivia, Cuba, Iran, Russia and Syria expressed concern, calling for an official inquiry. Many of these countries also joined North Korea elsewhere in the report in criticizing restrictive U.S. visa policies that prevented diplomats from entering the country.

The U.S. representative "stated that the host country took seriously the safety of United Nations personnel and its obligations under the Headquarters Agreement, and stated that his Mission routinely coordinated with local law enforcement when a concern was raised." He said that, in the case involving the North Korean official, the NYPD "had been called and had begun an investigation."

The New York City Commissioner for International Affairs offered a similar response.

Committee Chair Kornelios Korneliou of Cyprus welcomed all responses, including those by the U.S. "and welcomed its commitment to investigating the matter and, subsequently, to give the Committee an update about the matter."

The incident would not prove the first time Pyongyang's diplomats were apparently targeted abroad this year. Just months before the alleged incident in New York—which was reported by South Korea's Yonhap News Agency—and days ahead of the Hanoi summit between North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, the North Korean embassy in Spain was stormed by knife- and replica gun-wielding masked individuals who stole cell phones and computers.

Citing official sources, Spanish media initially indicated the CIA was believed to have been behind the attack, but the operation was later claimed by a dissident group calling itself the Cheollima Civil Defense. The group seeks the overthrow of the Kim dynasty and even issued pseudo-visas it claims would be used to visit the "liberated nation."

The Cheollima Civil Defense has posted less frequently on its website in recent months, however. Its last post in September was a mysterious series of words and digits simply reading: "Crocus 383765 459165 453666 486023 001000 Aster 826757 909256 195647 197706 150214."

Despite several stalls and setbacks, the U.S. and North Korea have continued to engage in their denuclearization-for-peace talks, a historic process designed to overcome decades of mutual hostility. In one of the latest developments, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson blasted the State Department's profile of the country—designated a "state sponsor of terrorism" in 2017—Tuesday in the recently-released report on international terrorism by the nation.

"It is the consistent stand of the DPRK to oppose all forms of terrorism and any support for it," the spokesperson said, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. "It is unreasonable that the U.S., hotbed and ringleader of terrorism, is styling itself a 'judge of terrorism,' which is just like a guilty party filing the suit first."