South Korea defense nominee vows air strikes on North |

South Korea defense nominee vows air strikes on North

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – President Lee Myung-bak’s choice for new defense minister said today that South Korean jets will bomb North Korea should Pyongyang stage an attack similar to last week’s deadly artillery barrage.

The tough words came as Lee’s government suffered intense criticism that the response to the North’s Nov. 23 shelling on a South Korean island was weak, and over a stunning revelation that the South’s spy chief dismissed information in August indicating North Korea might attack the front-line island.

Lee’s nominee, Kim Kwan-jin, told a parliamentary confirmation hearing that North Korean aggression will result in airstrikes. He said South Korea will use all its combat capabilities to retaliate.

“In case the enemy attacks our territory and people again, we will thoroughly retaliate to ensure that the enemy cannot provoke again,” Kim said. The hearing is a formality as South Korea’s National Assembly does not have the power to reject Lee’s appointment.

Kim said it will be difficult for North Korea to conduct a full-scale war because of its weak economy and worries over the success of a plan to transfer power from leader Kim Jong Il to his young, untested son, Kim Jong Un.