WASHINGTON— President Barack Obama plans to replace the top commander of U.S. forces in Korea, the Pentagon announced Friday, a move that comes as North Korea shows no signs of returning to dialogue aimed at easing military tensions and denuclearizing the peninsula.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Pentagon would promote Lt. Gen. Curtis ``Mike'' Scaparrotti, formerly deputy commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, to the rank of a four-star general to serve as commander of the 28,500 troops in South Korea. The nomination requires Senate confirmation.
If confirmed, he will succeed Army Gen. James Thurman, who assumed the post two years ago and is retiring soon.
In a news conference, Hagel extolled Thurman for his service.
"He has done a tremendous job for our country, for our forces, that region. And he has credibility," the secretary said. "The confidence that people have in him everywhere is really pretty special. He's been there, as you all know, at a very uncertain time, and his steady, wise leadership has really counted."
After repeatedly threatening to launch an attack on South Korea and the U.S., North Korea has kept relatively calm in recent weeks.
The incoming head of the U.S. Forces Korea, Hagel said, has worked tirelessly on many important issues, lauding him as a proven combat leader.
Scaparrotti served in Afghanistan as the commander of the International Security Assistance Force's Joint Command in Kabul from 2011 to 2012.
He has since worked as director of the Joint Staff, serving under Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"He commanded the 4th Infantry Division when it served as the nucleus of the Multinational Division Baghdad in 2006," according to the American Forces Press Service. "Scaparrotti, too, is an officer sculpted by combat."