The putative next U.S. ambassador to Seoul, Mark Lippert, in a Senate confirmation hearing in Washington on Tuesday pledged to place top priority on the full implementation of the bilateral free trade agreement.
He also vowed to resolve what he called "uneven issues" in the trade pact, including automobiles and place of origin.
Lippert said ironing out these issues must precede Seoul's participation in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, a wide-ranging, Asia-Pacific free trade deal involving 12 nations.
But he added the Seoul-Washington alliance is stronger than ever and described South Korea as one of America's most important allies.
"If confirmed, I pledge to work tirelessly, in close partnership with this committee, to make our alliance even stronger," he said. Lippert, a political appointment, said he gained tremendous respect for the people and culture of South Korea on his many visits there.
On North Korea, he said, "If confirmed, I will work closely with the leadership of [South Korea] to ensure we are fully aligned in our efforts to achieve the complete and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea and prevent proliferation of key technologies."
He promised to speak with the U.S. State Department and Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy about mediating between Seoul and Tokyo, whose ties are more brittle than ever. "We can play an important role in encouraging that dialogue back and forth," he said.