South Korea's Marine Corps chief was awarded a medal by the United States for his role in strengthening the bilateral alliance, the military said Friday.
Lt. Gen. Lee Sang-hoon was awarded the Legion of Merit, the highest medal the U.S. armed forces confers on foreign military officials, on Feb. 9 (U.S. time), officials said.
The commander is in Washington for talks with ranking officers on how to enhance cooperation between the allies and expand the role of the marines in countering a nuclear-armed North Korea.
Lee plans to meet his U.S. counterpart Gen. Robert B. Neller during his trip in return for Neller's Seoul visit in October. It marks the first U.S. visit by a South Korean Marine chief in a decade, according to the Marine Corps.
"They are expected to mainly discuss measures to solidify cooperation between the two nations' amphibious warfare arms and expand South Korea's participation in maritime exercises led by U.S. Marine Corps around the Korean Peninsula," a military spokesman said.
The first visit to Seoul by a U.S. Marine Corps chief in eight years was made amid heightened tensions after North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test in September and also a series of missile launches.
During his trip, Lee also plans to meet Lt. Gen. David H. Berger, the commanding officer of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific, in Hawaii.