Washington: The US-South Korean alliance is "stronger than ever”, President Barack Obama on Saturday said in the wake a deadly North Korean assault on its southern neighbour.
"At a time in which there are increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula following the North`s unprovoked attack on the South Korean people, today we are showing that the defence alliance and partnership of the United States and South Korea is stronger than ever," Obama said.
His remarks were part of a statement welcoming a landmark US-South Korea free trade agreement reached after three years of deadlock.
Incoming South Korean Defence Minister Kim Kwan-Jin said earlier that Seoul would "swiftly and strongly respond with force" until North Korea surrenders if the communist state launches another assault.
In his inauguration speech after President Lee Myung-Bak officially appointed the retired four-star general as the new defence chief, Kim said the sinking of a South Korean warship in the Yellow Sea in March and the shelling on Yeonpyeong island left "indelible wounds" on the South`s pride and honour.
Earlier this week, South Korea`s military announced just days after it wrapped Yellow Sea manoeuvres with the US Navy that it was planning more joint naval drills with the United States this month.