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The American Ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, is taken to hospital after being attacked by a razor-wielding man. Photo: AP Photo/Yonhap, Kim Ju-Sung

The American Ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, is taken to hospital after being attacked by a razor-wielding man. Photo: AP Photo/Yonhap, Kim Ju-Sung

AP

The American Ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, is taken to hospital after being attacked by a razor-wielding man. Photo: AP Photo/Yonhap, Kim Ju-Sung

The US ambassador to South Korea has been attacked by a man wielding a razor blade as he attended a lecture in Seoul.

North Korea yesterday described the knife attack on Mr Lippert as "just punishment" for the US decision to push ahead with joint military exercises with South Korea.

"Just punishment for US warmongers," ran the headline of a brief despatch by the official KCNA news agency, which called the attack a valid "expression of resistance".

Mr Lippert (42), who was about to deliver a speech at a breakfast being held at Sejong Hall, was taken to hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

The assailant, who was immediately taken into custody, reportedly shouted the "South and North Korea should be reunified" as he lashed out at the envoy.

The man, who was dressed in a modern version of the traditional Korean hanbok, was identified by police as 55-year-old Kim Ki-Jong. US interference in Korean affairs appeared to be his main grievance.

Mr Lippert has since undergone two and a half hours of plastic and orthopaedic surgery for the wounds to his cheek and wrist and is expected to remain in hospital for two or three days.

The rival Koreas have been divided for decades along the world's most heavily armed border.

The United States stations 28,500 troops in South Korea as a deterrent against North Korea, and some South Koreans see the American presence as a barrier toward a unified Korea.

The two countries launched annual joint military exercises this week, triggering a surge in tensions with North Korea.

The slashing of Ambassador Lippert's face and arm left him with deep gashes and damaged tendons and nerves.

Washington, which backed the South during the 1950-53 Korean War against the communist North, still holds annual military drills with Seoul. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk