Protest and support as Bush arrives in South Korea

Other News Materials 5 August 2008 19:54 (UTC +04:00)

US President George W Bush arrived in South Korea Tuesday, the first stop on his week-long visit to Asia amid protest and sympathy rallies, reported dpa.

Thousands of South Koreans protested in Seoul against a controversial deal allowing US beef imports back into the country, the national Yonhap news agency reported.

"Bush out, Myung Bak out," they shouted in reference to conservative South Korean President Lee Myung Bak.

Just three 300 metres away, around 30,000 people belonging to conservative and Christian groups and veterans associations were gathered outside the city hall in the capital in a show of support for the US.

The words: "We welcome Bush's visit," was seen on a balloon.

Bush's meeting with conservative Lee on Wednesday, the third this year, will kick off a series of political meetings in Seoul.

The future of the strategic alliance between the two countries and the progress made in talks over North Korea's controversial nuclear weapons programme are to dominate the talks.

Bush's short visit is accompanied by extremely strict security measures in South Korea's capital. Around 24,000 police were on standby, according to media reports.

Many South Koreans fear US beef may constitute a health hazard because of earlier cases of mad cow disease found in imported beef. South Korea's government was shaken earlier this year by weeks of protests after striking a deal with the US on beef imports.

After meeting with US soldiers, Bush will leave South Korea for Thailand on Wednesday. He is to take part in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Summer Games in Beijing on Friday.