By Carlo Muñoz - 05/18/13 12:29 PM EDT
President Obama has tapped Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Curtis "Mike" Scaparrotti to become the next top U.S. officer in Korea.
Defense Secretary Chuck HagelChuck HagelHagel says NATO deployment could spark a new Cold War with Russia Overnight Defense: House panel unveils 5B defense spending bill Hagel to next president: We need to sit down with Putin MORE and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey announced the nomination Friday at the Pentagon.
"I can think of no finer officer to be promoted to general and to take command of U.S. Forces Korea than Mike Scaparrotti," Dempsey told reporters during Friday's press conference.
The announcement came one day before North Korea reportedly fired three short-range missiles from its east coast.
A South Korea official who spoke to Reuters would not speculate on whether the missiles were fired as part of a training exercise.
The three-star general and former deputy commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan will replace outgoing commander Gen. James Thurman.
On Friday, Hagel praised Thurman's tenure in Korea, saying the four-star general carried out "a tremendous job for our country, for our forces of that region ... at a very uncertain time."
"The confidence that people have in him everywhere is really pretty special," Hagel added.
Thurman's "steady, wise leadership has really counted," during the recent escalation of tensions between U.S. forces and North Korea, Hagel said, noting his command help keep the peace in the region.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon announced a "provocation pause" between Pyongyang and Washington and its allies in the Pacific, bringing stability back to the region.
U.S. military drills in early March sparked the most recent game of military one-upmanship between the United States and North Korea that seemingly brought the region to the brink of war.
The United States deployed a ballistic missile defense system to Guam and moved Navy ships, armed with anti-missile weaponry, off the Korean peninsula last month, in response to aggressive movements by the North Korean military.
In response, North Korea has put its long-range artillery and rocket units on full alert and shuttering a military hotline with South Korea.
In late March, U.S. forces began flying B-2 and B-52 heavy bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, in the skies above South Korea.
Days after the bomber flights, Kim reportedly gave his military the green light to launch nuclear strikes against U.S. allies in the Pacific and targets inside the United States.
--This report was originally published on Friday at 5:08 p.m. and last updated on Saturday at 8:29 a.m.