North Korea Issues Threat Against U.S. Ambassador

Kim Jong-Un and Generals

Image courtesy Reuters

North Korea Issues Threat Against U.S. Ambassador
| published April 17, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff writers

North Korea is up to its usual antics this week, and we don’t mean its harsh critical view of American-made lowball Hollywood comedies.

North Korean state-run media has said that the United States’ ambassador to South Korea can expect a “bigger mishap” if he does not cease and desist with insulting the North Korean government of threatening, bullying, and conspiring to wreak havoc.

Ambassador Mark Lippert was attacked in South Korea in early March by a knife-wielding man known for his sympathies toward North Korea and his hatred of the United States. Lippert’s face was badly slashed during the assault. Though there was little evidence that the man was inspired or handled by operatives in North Korea, and though South Korean police believe that the attacker acted alone, the violent incident triggered concerns that an already bad relationship between the U.S. and North Korea was certain to get worse. For its part, North Korea denied any involvement in the attack on Lippert.

According to Reuters, Ambassador Lippert appeared at a public event earlier this week, and during his speech to that audience he indicated that if North Korea would make an effort to improve its human rights record and agree to verifiably halt its nuclear ambitions, the United States and scores of other countries might agree to lifting the heavy sanctions which have been imposed on Pyongyang for decades. Furthermore, North Korea could enjoy an open economic relationship with the rest of the world.

But North Korea was not pleased with Lippert’s attempt at reconciliation. A state-run media and press unit reacted harshly to what it saw as Lippert’s attempts to intervene in the internal affairs of the North.

“Lippert needs to drop the bad habit,” the North Korean press agency said, “of rashly engaging in scheming chatter distorting the truth and instigating was by taking issue with us. Otherwise, next time, he could face a bigger mishap than getting cut in the cheek by a South Korean citizen.”

The U.S. Department of State said that the language of the North Korean statement was harsh and threatening, but the State Department also said it did not regard North Korea’s invective as something to be taken seriously. Media operations in Pyongyang frequently engage in bluster, sometimes using inflated, hyperbolic language and outright threats. But some security analysts say that North Korean threats should be viewed as serious. Pyongyang also issued threats against the U.S., Hollywood, and Sony Pictures in the months preceding a cyber-attack which effectively shut down Sony Pictures for weeks, compromising its data and destroying its computer network. The FBI and the White House have said that the Sony attack came from North Korea.

Lippert, who enjoyed what he calls “an open and friendly” relationship with South Koreans, has built a solid, warm reputation in Seoul by engaging directly with the locals and by often being seen by himself in public. Lippert has even given his infant son a Korean middle name. After Lippert was attacked in March, he has been accompanied by a small security detail.

Related Thursday Review articles:

The Emperor’s New Clothes?; Kevin Robbie; Thursday Review; March 20, 2015.

Military Exercises, Korean Waters; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; March 17, 2015.

Top Sony Exec Comments on Cyber Attack; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; January 6, 2015.