U.S. names new commander for troops in South Korea

Sat Feb 16, 2008 3:25am IST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon named Army Gen. Walter Sharp on Friday as the new commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, where 28,000 American troops support the Korean army in defending the East Asian country.

Sharp's appointment by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to replace B.B. Bell, the top U.S. general in South Korea, comes amid a major restructuring of a military alliance forged during the 1950-53 Korean War.

South Korea technically remains at war with North Korea because the Korean War ended in a truce instead of a peace treaty.

South Korea's 650,000 troops face about 1.1 million in North Korea, which tested a nuclear weapon in 2006 and devotes the bulk of its resources to its military despite a struggling economy.

The United States has cut the number of troops it has stationed in South Korea to about 28,000 from about 37,000 earlier this decade.

The United States is also moving its remaining forces away from the front lines along the border with North Korea.

South Korea ceded wartime command of its military to U.S.-led U.N. forces during the Korean War.

After several years of negotiations, the United States and South Korea agreed last year that Seoul would take wartime control of its forces by 2012.

Copyright 2008 Reuters

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(Posted 2/15/08)