WASHINGTON — The United States on Friday condemned North Korea’s “callous” reaction to the knife attack on the U.S. ambassador to South Korea that has added to tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula.
An anti-U.S. activist is accused of attacking Ambassador Mark Lippert with a 10-inch (25-centimeter) knife in Seoul Thursday, causing deep gashes on his face and hand.
On Thursday, North Korea’s state-controlled media crowed that the attacker’s “knife slashes of justice” were “a deserved punishment on war maniac U.S.” The U.S. on Monday began military drills with allied South Korea that are held annually but described by Pyongyang as preparation for invasion.
“We have seen the statement, which was outrageously callous but unfortunately consistent with the nature of the regime and its rhetoric. I can’t condemn it in any stronger terms than that,” Harf told reporters.
Lippert, 42, was recovering well but complaining of pain in the wound near his left wrist and a finger where doctors repaired nerve damage. Doctors plan to remove the 80 stitches on Lippert’s face on Monday or Tuesday and expect him to be out of the hospital by Tuesday or Wednesday. Hospital officials say he may experience sensory problems in his left hand for several months.
South Korean police on Friday were investigating the motive of the anti-U.S. activist, Kim Ki-jong, 55, who was captured at scene of the attack. A court formally approved his arrest Friday and he could face charges including attempted murder, assaulting a foreign envoy, obstruction, and violating a controversial law that bans praise or assistance for North Korea, police officials said.