In a rare trip to Yeonpyeong Island, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said he believes North Korea will make a carefully calculated provocation against South Korea to help its new leader Kim Jong-un consolidate his power and resolve internal friction.
South Korea will powerfully retaliate against North Korea until the unit responsible and its support bases "completely surrender in case of the North's provocation," Kim told troops on the South Korean western border island shelled by North Korea in 2010.
The artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island killed two South Korean marines and two civilians. The attack, together with the North's deadly sinking of a South Korean warship earlier in 2010, plunged inter-Korean relations to one of their lowest levels in decades.
South Korea has since strengthened its defense posture and repeatedly pledged to retaliate against the communist country if provoked again.
The defense chief's latest trip to Yeonpyeong Island came as North Korea rattled its saber against South Korea in recent days over defamation of the dignity of its new leader Kim Jong-un.
The North has accused a South Korean army unit in Incheon, a port west of Seoul, of writing aggressive defamatory words above and below portraits of the North's leader Kim Jong-un and his late father, former leader Kim Jong-il.
The South Korean military unit in Incheon reportedly posted photos of the two Kims inside a barrack with accompanying text that translates as, "Let's Kill Kim Jong-un."
The North has long bristled at any outside criticism of its leader and has made similar threats against the South over the past several months, although no actual attack has occurred yet.
On Tuesday, Pyon In-son, the new commander of the North's 4th Corps that shelled Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, warned that either Seoul or Incheon "will be engulfed in flames and no enemy will survive our strikes" once the North's artillery pieces open fire all at once.
Seoul, the South Korean capital city of more than 10 million people, is within range of North Korea's artillery.
The North's new leader Kim Jong-un, who took over the country following the December death of his father Kim Jong-il, has ordered his troops to strongly retaliate if South Korea breaches the North's borders.
The North's Kim made the comment during a recent inspection trip to units under the 4th Corps in the southwestern region.