In a statement released via the Korean Central News Agency on Thursday, North Korea applauded the attack on U.S. diplomat Mark Lippert, who serves as the ambassador to South Korea. Lippert was injured in a stabbing assault in Seoul on Thursday morning, when a man wielding a fruit knife slashed his face and wrist. At the time of the attack, the U.S. ambassador was reportedly delivering a lecture concerning relations between South and North Korea.
The North Korean government hailed the bloody attack as "righteous punishment" on the United States, adding that it represented the "public opinion" of "anti-U.S. sentiment" in both North and South Korea. The statement also called the dangerous incident "a knife-attack shower of justice."
Authorities have identified the knife attacker as 55-year-old Kim Ki-Jong. According to CNN, police believe Kim's assault was in retaliation of joint South Korea-U.S. military drills. Nearly 30,000 U.S. soldiers are still based in South Korea, to the dismay of some residents.
After undergoing hours of surgery and receiving about 80 stitches, Lippert was in stable condition on Thursday. He will likely remain hospitalized for the next three or four days, CNN reports. Lippert has been serving as the U.S. ambassador to South Korea for less than a year, having been appointed to the position by President Obama in 2014. Before joining the State Department, Lippert held positions with the Department of Defense.
The State Department condemned the brutal knife attack Wednesday night, calling it an "act of violence." The department confirmed that Lippert's injuries were not life-threatening, and that the embassy in Seoul is working with local law enforcement agencies.
Obama also reportedly called Lippert and his wife, Robyn, according to a National Security Council spokesperson.
In a tweet on Thursday, Lippert confirmed that he was "doing well" and will make a full recovery.
Even though North Korea claimed the assault on Lippert reflected the people's opinion on U.S. involvement in South Korea, South Korean President Park Geun-hye denounced the violent attack. "This incident is not only a physical attack on the U.S. ambassador, but an attack on the South Korea-U.S. alliance and it can never be tolerated," the president said on Thursday.
Park, who has just arrived in the United Arab Emirates, also called Lippert as he recovers in the hospital to express her concern and sadness over the attack, South Korea's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
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