(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with Seoul official's response in 11th para; RECASTS 3rd para)
By Byun Duk-kun and Song Sang-ho
WASHINGTON/SEOUL, May 6 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted unanimously to approve the nomination of Philip Goldberg, a career diplomat, as new U.S. ambassador to South Korea.
The confirmation came as Seoul and Washington seek to reinforce their alliance for stronger deterrence against North Korea's evolving military threats -- an issue likely to figure prominently in the upcoming summit between President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol and President Joe Biden slated for May 21.
Goldberg, who had served as ambassador to Colombia since 2019, is a "Career Ambassador," the highest diplomatic rank in U.S. foreign service.
He has undertaken various key posts at the State Department, including ambassadorship in the Philippines and Bolivia and the assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research.
The ambassador also worked as coordinator for the Implementation of U.N. Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1874 on North Korea from 2009-2010 -- a period when he built his expertise on the recalcitrant regime.
The coordinator position was to ensure the enforcement of sanctions slapped in the aftermath of the North's second underground nuclear test in 2009.
His past dealings with those sanctions created an image of him as a hard-liner on Pyongyang.
During last month's Senate confirmation hearing, Goldberg referred to the North as a "rogue regime" and advocated for the North's "comprehensive, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)."
The Biden administration has refrained from using the expression CVID in an apparent move to pave the way for reengagement with the North, as the regime has balked at the term.
But Goldberg is also known to have shown a flexible stance in 2009 on the possible resumption of tours to Mount Kumgang on the North's east coast and its border city of Kaesong, saying the resumption is unrelated to UNSC sanctions.
Meanwhile, an official at Seoul's foreign ministry, welcomed the Senate confirmation for Goldberg, vowing "active support" to help him contribute to strengthening the South Korea-U.S. alliance.
Goldberg will replace Harry Harris, who stepped down early last year when President Biden took office.
The ambassador earned a Bachelor of Science degree magna cum laude in Journalism from Boston University.
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