SEOUL, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- The commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea said he plans to strengthen cooperation between the Navy's Seventh Fleet and the South Korea Navy, after recently relocating to the South Korean port city of Busan.
Navy Capt. William D. Byrne Jr. told South Korean news agency Yonhap on Monday the Seventh Fleet, headquartered in Yokosuka, Japan, and assigned to the defense of the Korean peninsula, does not retain vessels or fighter jets in South Korea, but is to play a role in drawing the two Navies closer in cooperation.
Byrne said the cooperation would include submarine and maritime patrol operations, YTN reported.
The United States has strengthened its naval alliances with regional partners as a dispute with China grows over Beijing's land reclamation activities in the South China Sea.
Last week, Washington pledged $79 million that would go toward the maritime security of the Philippines. The U.S. support would be centered on building a training, logistical base for expanding the Philippine Navy, Coast Guard and Air Forces' capacity to undertake maritime operations.
Byrne said that in South Korea, the naval cooperation would work toward peace on the Korean peninsula and regional stability.
"Hand-in-hand with our [South Korea] partners, we keep an eye on [the North's developing capabilities], which makes it even more important that we work shoulder-to-shoulder," he said. "That is a good example of the value of the move from Seoul to Busan to be good neighbors."
The relocation process to Busan took place gradually, beginning last February. There are still currently 40 U.S. Navy personnel in Seoul, but 50 already have moved to Busan.
Byrne said the recent North Korea declaration of a no-sail zone off the eastern coast of the peninsula is not unusual, and that it remains to be seen whether or not Pyongyang is to conduct a test launch of a missile.
The naval commander said he is closely monitoring the situation.