The top US military commander in South Korea on Friday touted the combined forces of the two allies as the "most lethal and ready" troops in the world amid lingering concerns over North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile threats.
Gen. Paul LaCamera, the head of the South Korea-US Combined Forces Command (CFC), made the remarks during a ceremony at the Yongsan Garrison in Seoul to celebrate the 43rd anniversary of the founding of the command.
His remarks came weeks after Pyongyang fired off a new submarine-launched ballistic missile in a sign that it continues to advance nuclear delivery capabilities, with its nuclear talks with Washington still in limbo.
"As we celebrate our 43rd anniversary, everyone can see that we remain the most lethal, ready and combined force in the world," LaCamera was quoted by his office as saying.
"We remain ready to deter, defend, and -- if necessary -- defeat any adversaries who seek to harm this great country," he added.
The remarks came amid worries here that the Joe Biden administration's reported consideration of a policy shift to reduce the use of its nuclear arms could lead to a weakening of deterrence against the North.
During the ceremony, Deputy CFC Commander Gen. Kim Seung-kyum highlighted the two countries' joint efforts to reinforce the alliance.
"We will keep marching forward together to advance the ROK-US Alliance and Combined Forces Command based on common values and trust," Kim said. ROK stands for South Korea's official name, Republic of Korea.
The CFC was launched on Nov. 7, 1978, as the allies' pivotal warfighting command to deter North Korean aggression. Upon its inception, it took over operational control over South Korean troops from the UN Command (UNC), which was formed to defend the South during the 1950-53 Korean War.
The CFC currently holds wartime operational control, while peacetime operational control was returned to the South in 1994. South Korea handed over the overall operational authority to the UNC at the start of the war in 1950.
The allies are currently working on the transition of the wartime operational control, after which a four-star South Korean general is to lead the allies' combined forces, with a US general playing a supporting role.
LaCamera took office as the head of the US Forces Korea, the CFC and the UNC in July, replacing his predecessor, Robert Abrams. (Yonhap)