US commander in South Korea vows action on North
Seoul: Army General James Thurman took over Thursday as commander of US forces in South Korea at a time of high tensions with North Korea, and vowed to counter any provocations.
Thurman, who succeeds General Walter Sharp as commander of 28,500 US troops in the South, was inaugurated at a ceremony attended by his country's top military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen.
He will also head the United Nations Command, a legacy of the 1950-53 war in which the US spearheaded a UN force defending the South, and the South Korea-US Combined Forces Command.
Thurman, quoted by Yonhap news agency, said both Seoul and Washington are "prepared to honour our commitments, provide stability, deter conflict and, if we must, fight and win”.
He said the alliance "stands ready to counter any provocation intended to destabilise the Korean peninsula".
Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, also met his South Korean counterpart General Han Min-Koo.
"The South Korea-US alliance is stronger than ever, and will never condone any provocation from North Korea," Han was quoted as saying.
Tensions have flared since the South accused the North of torpedoing one of its warships with the loss of 46 lives in March 2010.
The North denied the charge but last November shelled a border island, killing four South Koreans including two civilians and briefly sparking fears of war.
Its military has threatened reprisals for anti-Pyongyang signs displayed by the South's troops, and for the use by some Seoul military units of portraits of the North's ruling family as rifle-range targets.