Rubio, Gardner Urge Investigation into North Korea’s Role in Assault on US Ambassador

Washington, D.C. – Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), who serves as the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who served as chairman of the subcommittee in the 113th Congress, announced today that they have sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging a full investigation, conducted in conjunction with our South Korean allies, into the March 4th assault on Mark Lippert, the United States Ambassador to South Korea. The letter reads, in full:

We write to express our dismay regarding the assault that took place on March 4 on our Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, Mark Lippert, and extend our thoughts and prayers for his speedy recovery. We are relieved that Ambassador Lippert was discharged from the hospital on March 10.

We are disturbed by reports of North Korea’s possible involvement in this cowardly attack. As you know, Kim Ki-jong, the suspect in custody, was allegedly protesting the planned joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea and shouted “anti-American, anti-imperialist” slogans as he attacked Ambassador Lippert. 

North Korea's official KCNA news agency subsequently praised the attack "deserved punishment" and "the knife of justice" in retribution for the planned exercises. According to Yonhap News Agency, South Korean intelligence sources said the suspect visited North Korea six times between 2006 and 2007 and “also tried to erect a memorial altar in late 2011 for late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in the heart of Seoul.” Kim was also found guilty of assault against the Japanese Ambassador in South Korea in 2010 and was given a suspended sentence.

We call on you to work closely with South Korea’s diplomatic, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to uncover possible further details of North Korea’s role in this attack. We further ask you to regularly brief the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the status of the investigation, the formulation for an appropriate U.S. policy response, and your efforts to improve security for our personnel in South Korea.