By Jamie Crawford, CNN
The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed Sung Y. Kim to be the next U.S. ambassador to South Korea after a Republican senator lifted a hold on the nomination that had threatened to derail the effort.
A unanimous consent request by Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, to move the nomination forward was approved without objection. Kim's confirmation came minutes before South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was to address a joint meeting of Congress, and a few hours before President Barack Obama was set to host a state dinner at the White House in Lee's honor.
Senator Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, had placed a hold on the confirmation of Kim, a career diplomat who has served in Republican and Democratic administrations, over concerns about the direction of U.S. policy toward North Korea. In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton obtained by CNN, Kyl expressed "serious concern" about reports the United States may be considering a return to the Six-Party Talks with North and South Korea, Japan, China and Russia regarding the north's nuclear program.
The letter, which did not mention Kim by name, sought guarantees from Clinton that the United States would not engage in any more bilateral talks with North Korea, and asked for a written response explaining the administration's intentions towards Pyongyang.
Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, met in July with North Korean diplomats in New York to discuss ways the parties might return to multilateral discussions over the north's nuclear program. Both sides said the talks had been constructive, and implied that future talks might be possible.
Kim is the first American of Korean descent to hold the post in Seoul. He will replace current U.S. Ambassador Kathleen Stephens.