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US forces honor South Korea's outgoing top military officer


The US Forces Korea (USFK) held an honor guard ceremony Thursday to mark the planned departure of South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Chairman Park Han-ki.

Park is scheduled to retire as JSC chairman next week after serving in the post since October 2018. No official term of office is set, but the JCS chairman is supposed to serve for around 18 months to two years.

The ceremony took place at the US military garrison in Yongsan, Seoul, hosted by USFK commander Gen. Robert Abrams.

"He supervised the implementation of the historic inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement, which reduces tensions along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and created an atmosphere conducive to diplomacy," Abrams said in his speech.

The military agreement, signed on Sept. 19, 2018, during an inter-Korean summit held in Pyongyang, calls for a series of trust-building and arms control measures under a broader scheme to halt all hostile acts against each other.

"He advanced conditions required for the wartime OPCON transition. Under his leadership, we've made more progress in 2019 than the previous three years together," Abrams said. "General Park's services resulted in our alliance becoming militarily strong, more vibrant and more collaborative than ever before."

Seoul and Washington have been working for the transfer of the wartime operational control (OPCON) of South Korean troops from Washington to Seoul.

The outgoing chairman said, "Freedom is not free. I feel what this means for the past two years. Korea is technically at war, and the inter-Korean relations as well as the US-North Korean ties are like walking on thin ice."

"At this critical juncture, Gen. Abrams has played a key role for peace on the Korean Peninsula ... The general and I have continued communication and displayed great teamwork," Park recalled, expressing deep gratitude to U.S. service members for their commitment to the staunch combined readiness posture.

"The South Korea-US alliance has never backed down. It will continue to improve down the road," the chairman said.

Won In-choul, who currently leads the Air Force, was nominated as Park's successor last month, and his National Assembly confirmation hearing is set to take place on Monday. (Yonhap)