SEOUL, April 1 (UPI) -- Military officials in South Korea are planning strategic changes to enhance ties with the United States to build a stronger defense against North Korea.
South Korea's new deputy commander of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, Gen. Lee Sung-chul, says changes are under way to establish a more effective joint force in preparation for the scheduled U.S. transfer of wartime operational control of South Korean troops to South Korea in 2012. Lee says he is also working to strengthen South Korea's military relationship with the United States, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense reported.
"We are tasked with a mission to establish a new joint command system that is as effective as the current combined command system while strengthening our mutual trust based on our shared values and tradition," Lee said in a statement.
Lee took charge of all South Korean and U.S. ground forces in South Korea after Gen. Kim Byung-gwan recently retired from the post. Lee and other top military officials say they are working to enhance defenses in South Korea and prepare the combined forces against threats posed by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il's regime.
"We are ready," Combined Forces Commander Gen. B. B. Bell said. "We are meeting the mission given to us by our national leaders."