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By Choi Soo-hyang
SEOUL, July 13 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Robert Abrams visited the funeral home for late Korean War hero Paik Sun-yup on Monday, saying he is deeply grateful for Paik's service.
Abrams visited the funeral altar set up at Asan Medical Center in eastern Seoul, together with South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Chairman Gen. Park Han-ki, in a demonstration of the alliance between the two countries.
Abrams and Park each placed a flower before the altar and saluted Paik's portrait.
"We offer our deepest condolences to the family of Gen. Paik Sun-yup," Abrams said in a guestbook message.
Abrams told members of Paik's family that the late general "was at the heart and soul of the ROK-U.S. alliance and we are deeply grateful for his service."
JCS Chairman Park also expressed condolences.
"Carrying on the general's strict military spirit and dedication to the country and the military, we will maintain a watertight military readiness posture and do our best to fulfill our mission to protect the country and the people," Park told reporters at the mortuary.
Paik, South Korea's first four-star general and most renowned war hero, died Friday at age 99. He is credited for bravely leading key battles during the 1950-53 war and contributing greatly to the modernization of South Korea's armed forces.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, former U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, Hyundai Motor Group Executive Vice Chairman Chung Euisun, and other key figures from the political and industrial circles also paid tribute to the late general.
Former USFK commanders also offered their condolences over Paik's death.
"The passing of General and Ambassador Paik Sun-yup marks the closing of the first 70 years of the ROK-U.S. Alliance, while his life and contributions to the Alliance serve as a great role model for the future of this close and invaluable relationship," Walter Sharp, who commanded the USFK from 2008 to 2011, said.
John Tilelli, who headed USFK from 1996 to 1999, said Paik was a "soldier's soldier" and that it is "difficult to put into words the great loss of someone who has meant so much to all of us who served in The Republic of Korea and to me personally."
"He will be greatly missed and has left a legacy not only for the Korean People but for the United States Military," James Thurman, USFK commander from 2011 to 2013, said.
Paik's body will be buried at the national cemetery in the central city of Daejeon on Wednesday.
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