South Korea will hit back with air strikes and “punish the attacker thoroughly” should North Korea launch any further military assault, the defense minister-designate said yesterday.
“We would definitely use the air force to strike back,” Kim Kwan-jin said, answering a question at his parliamentary confirmation hearing about what the South’s response would be if attacked again.
The South’s military counterattacked with artillery fire after the North on Nov. 23 shelled a border island, killing two civilians and two marines. Seoul said at the time it did not use air power against the North’s gun positions for fear of escalating the situation.
The response was widely seen as feeble and the previous defense minister resigned to take responsibility.
Kim dismissed the chance of full-scale war as slim, citing the military prowess of South Korean and allied US forces and the North’s domestic problems.
“Through the US-South Korea combined forces, we are closely monitoring all signs of possible provocation by the North and our means and assets to restrain and prevent provocations are reliable,” he said. “Therefore, even if we respond harshly to a further provocative act, it would be difficult for the North to escalate it into a full-scale war.”