Defense Minister Shin Won-sik called Monday for a strong readiness posture against North Korea as he made his first visit to a front-line military unit in his new role.
Shin, who took office Saturday, was briefed on border operations at the Army's 1st Infantry Division in Paju, just south of the Demilitarized Zone, and ordered a firm military readiness posture.
"We should make North Korea feel that they stand to lose more than they gain in order to deter provocations," Shin said.
If North Korea provokes, Shin said, "First, retaliate immediately. Second, retaliate strongly. Third, retaliate until the end."
Last week, President Yoon Suk Yeol vowed to defend the nation from North Korea's provocations by strengthening its ability to respond "immediately and overwhelmingly."
Tensions linger on the Korean Peninsula over North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile threats.
In the past, North Korea has conducted large-scale provocations two or three years after a new South Korean government takes office, Shin said.
In 2010, two years after President Lee Myung-bak took office, North Korea torpedoed a South Korean warship and shelled a South Korean border island, killing 50 people, mostly soldiers.
Shin, a ruling People Power Party lawmaker who retired as a three-star Army general, is known for his expertise in defense policy and military operations.
He served as the head of the defense ministry's Policy Planning Bureau in 2011 and 2012 before leading the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Chief Directorate of Operations from October 2013 to April 2015.
Shin capped off his military career as the JCS vice chairman before his discharge in January 2016.
Source: Yonhap News Agency