Military officials say the United States and South Korea have signed an agreement giving American troops an expanded role in protecting the South from North Korean provocation.
The pact was signed Friday by South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Jung Seun-jo and the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, General James Thurman.
Under the Combined Counter-Provocation Plan, U.S. forces will be able to aid South Korean troops in retaliating to any military aggression from North Korea.
Previously, South Korean forces were in charge of any military action against the North and U.S. troops would engage only if a full-scale war broke out.
The protocol is certain to provoke a strong response from Pyongyang, which continually accuses Washington and Seoul of plotting to invade the North.
After the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010, which was blamed on the North and the shelling of a South Korean island that killed two civilians the same year, Seoul has pledged to defend itself by retaliating against the source of any attack.