Oct. 2 (UPI) — Lt. Gen. Willard Burleson III promised that the U.S. Eighth Army will “remain prepared to fight” as he assumed command in South Korea on Friday.
Lt. Gen. Michael Bliss passed the colors of the Eighth Army, which is the command formation of all U.S. forces in South Korea, to Burleson in a change-of-command ceremony at U.S. Garrison Humphries, the command headquarters, in Pyeongtaek.
In an address, Burleson confirmed the U.S. military’s resolve to defend South Korea.
“Eighth Army’s presence here in Korea and in the Pacific certainly sends a strong signal not just to the Republic of Korea, but to our regional allies, on the United States’ commitment to deterring our potential adversaries,” Burleson said.
“And while we all hope and pray for peace, we must never forget that we’re not there yet. And you have my commitment that Eighth Army will remain prepared to fight tonight.”
As commanding general, Burleson will oversee six major subordinate commands and smaller units across the peninsula. He is in charge of a headquarters that commands and controls a unified ground force of U.S. and South Korean troops.
Burleson formerly was the assistant chief of staff for U.S. Forces Korea, the United Nations Command and the Combined Forces Command. Gen. Bliss retired on Friday in a separate ceremony.
About 28,500 U.S. military personnel are stationed in South Korea.
With talks slowed between the United States and North Korea over North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, the change of command occurred amid fears of renewed tensions on the Korean peninsula. Some analysts expect that North Korea may conduct a missile test or similar incitement in connection with the upcoming U.S. presidential election.