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South Korea to Retaliate If Bombed Again

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A top South Korean presidential security advisor - who could be the country's next defense minister - says Seoul is prepared to bomb North Korea if Pyongyang again hits the South with artillery.

Kim Kwan-jin, the presidential security advisor hoping to be the next defense minister, is talking tough.

Speaking at his confirmation hearing in the national assembly Friday, he firmly stated that if attacked again, South Korea will not hesitate to protect itself.

Kim says South Korea will definitely conduct an air raid on North Korea, as a just manner of self-preservation and completely eliminate, with all of its forces, the root cause of the threat.

According to the U.S. military, Seoul has the authority to unilaterally order such retaliation, unless South Korean forces are placed under the command of American forces.

Military leaders and policy makers are discussing whether South Korea should carry out a pre-emptive attack if it becomes apparent North Korea is ready to strike again.

Nam Sung Uk, the director of South Korea's Institute for National Security Strategy, says the country has been hoping for a peaceful reunification of the peninsula and, until now, pre-emption has not been part of Seoul's national policy. But he says the time has come to change that stance.

Nam says experts believe it is "50 percent likely" there will be additional military provocations by the North as the world's only communist family dynasty prepares for Kim Jong Il's son, Kim Jong Un, to formally assume power.

The head of South Korea's intelligence agency and other government officials this week have stated the chances of fresh attacks by Pyongyang are high.

Nam, however, brushes off second-hand reports and speculation North Korea may be planning to fire artillery on the South Korean capital. He considers such reports "psychological warfare" by Pyongyang because that would compel a full response by South Korea and the United States, starting a war North Korea knows it cannot win.

Others on Friday also are downplaying the likelihood of Seoul, the fifth largest city in the world, coming under attack.

Baek Seong Joo heads the Center for Security and Strategy at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses. He says shelling the capital is a completely different type of provocation for the North Koreans compared to their attacks along the disputed west coast maritime border.

Baek says people in Seoul should have no fear because the capital is much better defended and South Korea would respond much more effectively than when the lightly defended frontier islands were attacked.

Shelling on November 28 by North Korea's artillery killed two South Korean marines and two civilians on Yeonpyeong island in the Yellow Sea.

President Lee Myung-bak's government and the country's defense forces have faced criticism for their response to that attack. South Korea did return fire with self-propelled howitzers but refrained from launching an air attack.

Article by Steve Herman, VOA News