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Defense chief vows 'merciless' response if N. Korea attacks

South Korea's newly-appointed defense chief vowed Tuesday to "mercilessly respond" to North Korea in the case of any provocation, instructing troops at the tensely-guarded western sea border to prepare for an effective counterattack.

   Defense Minister Han Min-koo made the remarks during a visit to the islands of Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong in the Yellow Sea just south of the Northern Limit Line, the de facto inter-Korean western sea border.

   Han, a career soldier and former chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took office on Monday to succeed Kim Kwan-jin, who became national security adviser.

   "Our military has maintained the principle of launching counterstrikes at not only the origin of provocations, but also forces supporting it and its commanders. If North Korea provokes again, we will punish it as repeatedly warned," Han said.

   "A merciless response to the enemy's provocations is the order of the people, and I have a strong willingness and determination to implement it," he added.

   The border region has often been a flashpoint of conflict between the two Koreas. In November 2010, the communist North shelled Yeonpyeong Island, killing four people, including two civilians.

   "The island is one of the most tense regions, and it is the very place that shows North Korea's belligerence," Han said, ordering the troops there to prepare for an "instant and effective counterattack." (Yonhap)

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