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The US ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was recovering from surgery Thursday after having his face and arm slashed by a knife-wielding activist in an attack applauded by North Korean state media. Witnesses described how a man armed with a 25-centimetre (10-inch) paring knife had lunged across a table and attacked Lippert at a breakfast function in central Seoul. In a brief despatch, North Korea's official KCNA news agency called the attack "just punishment" and a valid "expression of resistance" that reflected South Korean public opposition to the joint drills which went ahead over Pyongyang's bitter protests. Kim was a known maverick activist who had been handed a two-year suspended sentence in 2010 for throwing a rock at the then Japanese ambassador to Seoul.