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New USFK commander vows to defend S. Korea against aggression

The new commander of U.S. forces stationed in South Korea said their mission is to protect the South against outside aggression and maintain stability in the region.

In a posting entitled "Command Philosophy and Priority" on the homepage of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), Gen. James Thurman said in order to accomplish that mission, "readiness is essential."

"To stay ready, our combined forces must be led by strong leaders, trained across the spectrum from engagement to major conflict, and conditioned to be mentally and physically tough,"

Thurman said. "Leaders create an environment of mutual trust and respect that enables members of the alliance to achieve their full potential, and leaders live by the 'Golden Rule,' which puts caring, respect and fairness first."

Thurman replaced Gen. Walter Sharp last week and is also in charge of the United Nations Command (UNC) and the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC).

Thurman has served as commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command and has had extensive operational combat experience. He served in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm during the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991, and also was a multinational division commander handling all coalition operations in Baghdad in 2006.

Thurman said the alliance between South Korea and the U.S. "is the strongest alliance in the world," and that the foundation for their security partnership is strengthened by some key imperatives, such as discipline, combined training, leader development and risk management.

The commander said well-trained combined forces will ensure the seamless transfer of wartime operational control of South Korean troops from the U.S. to the South in 2015, under a plan called Strategic Alliance 2015.

"Deterrence relies on a solid foundation of preparedness; you must be ready to fight as an allied team, and you must thoroughly understand how we will all execute side-by-side," he said.

"Remember that our mission is to stay trained and ready -- we go together."

The presence of some 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea is a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice and has left the two Koreas still technically at war. (Yonhap News)