June 4 (UPI) -- The top U.S. diplomat to South Korea issued a statement on the protests that have swept the United States since the death of George Floyd, who died from asphyxia after being arrested by Minneapolis police.
Ambassador Harry Harris shared on Twitter on Thursday a message he said he had issued to U.S. Embassy staff. Harris included a photo of a local protest outside the U.S. Embassy in central Seoul.
Harris said in his tweet that he "disagreed" with the South Korean protesters' message in the photo, which read, "U.S. imperialism means I can't breathe!"
The ambassador also said he "respects their right to peacefully protest" in democratic South Korea.
In the image shared on Twitter, the South Korean demonstrators are seen holding up images of Derek Chauvin, the white police officer who continued to press his knee into Floyd's neck even after Floyd said he could not breathe, before becoming unresponsive.
Harris' tweet included a screen capture of his message to Embassy staff.
"I am deeply troubled about the events surrounding the brutal killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and the ongoing aftermath. I hurt to see our nation going through such difficult times. Most demonstrators across the United States today are formed in peace protests against racism, bigotry and hatred. I stand with them. I share the conviction that those beliefs have no place in our society," Harris' message read.
"As an Asian American who was reared in the segregated South of the 1960s, I never thought I would see this happening again, especially in the 21st Century. But I believe in America and her people.
"To be clear, however, I do not stand with those who use peaceful protest as a cover for vandalism, mayhem and wanton destruction. And to those voices -- and there are some, already -- who take perverse pleasure in what is happening in American today...to them I say we'll emerge a better country and a stronger democracy...and we won't forget," the ambassador said.
Solidarity rallies are being planned online in South Korea, among Korea's black communities and their supporters, the Korea Herald reported.