Korea-US alliance to remain strong as before despite attack on ambassador: US experts

Korea-US alliance to remain strong as before despite attack on ambassador: US experts
US Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert leaves after he was slashed in the face by an unidentified assailant at a public forum in central Seoul March 5, 2015. Lippert was attending a breakfast forum in central Seoul when a man attacked him, slashing him in the face.

The alliance between South Korea and the United States will remain as strong as before despite the bloody attack on US Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert, American experts said Thursday.

"The alliance-partnership is stronger than ever, certainly strong enough and resilient enough to deal with this reprehensible act," said Evans Revere, a former principal deputy assistant secretary who also served as duty chief of mission at the US Embassy in Seoul.

A knife-wielding assailant slashed Amb. Lippert on the face and wrist at a breakfast function in central Seoul. The ambassador was immediately taken to a hospital and received more than 80 stitches.

Hospital officials said he will need to remain hospitalised for three to four days.

The 55-year-old attacker was immediately arrested. As he was hauled away, he shouted opposition to joint military exercises under way between South Korea and the US, something in line with North Korea's rhetoric.

Denouncing the attack as "one of the most despicable and cowardly acts that I can remember in the history of US relations with Korea," Revere said he knows the attacker and remembers him as "a frequent and vocal participant in a number of anti-US Embassy and anti-American demonstrations."

"It was also an attack on a man who loves Korea and has a profound respect and admiration for its people," Revere said, referring to the ambassador, adding that messages of sympathy and support that are pouring into the embassy and to the State Department are a testament to the positive feelings that the vast majority of Korean people have for the alliance and for the ambassador.

David Straub, associate director for the Korean Studies Program at Stanford University, also said the case won't have any negative impacts on the relations between the two countries.

"This kind of an attack can happen in any country, including the United States, and by people from any country. The American people and American officials understand this, so it will have absolutely no effect on US-Korean relations," he said.

Such a case is "a one- or two-day story in the media" in the US, he added.

It is "unfortunate, even insulting," that some commentators in Korea are suggesting that the case will hurt bilateral relations, with some linking the incident to Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman's remarks seen as taking Japan's side in history rows, Straub said.

"I am sure that the US government and Amb. Lippert in particular are deeply grateful" to those who helped capture the assailant, helped the ambassador get to safety and to the hospital and wished him a quick recovery, the former State Department official said.

The professor added, however, that the US and South Korean governments should consult carefully to ensure adequate security for Lippert in future, "especially after North Korea's official media applauded it as a just act."

Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the case would more likely strengthen the alliance between the two countries, rather than hurt it.

"I do not see this attempted murder as in any way altering the US-ROK relationship. If anything, it reaffirms and strengthens it,"he said. "There is no reason to conclude that these were more than the actions of single deranged individual."

Still, it is still despicable that North Korea has tried to exploit the events of Thursday morning for a propaganda advantage, he said.

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