South Korea repeats warning against North Korea
SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea on Saturday repeated its warning it will hit back hard at North Korea in the event of another expected attack.
Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, who on Friday said the South would bomb the North if provoked again, was speaking 11 days after North Korea attacked the small southern island of Yeonpyeong, killing four people.
"Our enemy's provocation has not ended yet," Kim said at his inauguration. "Going forward, they will keep targeting our weak points and plot provocations of new aspects...If North Korea carries out a military provocation targeting our territory and citizens again, (we) need to punish them with immediate and powerful reaction until they completely give in."
Kim, a retired general, also called for improvements to combat capability and training and "top-notch preparations to win whenever we fight (our) enemy."
A former commander of the U.S. Forces Korea called for a strong, "asymmetrical" retaliation against North Korea in the event of further provocations and a halt to all contact with the reclusive regime.
"Next time the North attacks, there should be an immediate and properly measured asymmetric retaliatory military strike by South Korea," Burwell Bell, who retired in 2008, was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying.
"Allowing North Korea to attack the South with no counter-strike consequences sends a message of weakness and timidity to Kim Jong-il," he added, referring to the North's leader.
Bell urged allies to suspend all ties with the North through "total economic sanctions" and an abandonment of the six-party talks aimed at dismantling the North's nuclear program.
North Korea walked out of the talks, joining the two Koreas, host China, the United States, Japan and Russia, two years ago.
"As long as Kim Jong-il is in power, the six-party talks process is dead, and both the United States and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) should give the talks an official funeral," Bell said, also criticizing China for not reining in its ally.
The foreign ministers of the United States, Japan and South Korea, long-time allies, meet in Washington on Monday to discuss North Korea.
China, pushing for an emergency meeting of the six parties, is not going. That means the discussions in Washington have little chance of breaking the impasse.
(Writing by Nick Macfie)