S. Koreans fire water cannons at Bush protesters
President Bush didn't exactly get a rock star's welcome when he arrived in Seoul today. Instead, he got a mixed reception involving a large pro-US Christian prayer service, as well as a protest from thousands who contest Bush's policies on US beef imports and his stance on Iran.
Almost 20,000 police in riot garb were on hand, using water cannons to clear city streets. There were about a dozen arrests, according to reports.
This is likely Bush's final visit to South Korea as president.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Police fired water cannons at thousands of protesters Tuesday as President Bush got a volatile reception in South Korea at the start of his three-nation Asian trip.
Dueling demonstrations reflected mixed sentiments in this U.S. ally, where public opinion surveys remain generally positive about America, though many people decry Washington for a variety of issues. Bush will meet Wednesday with President Lee Myung-bak for the third time since the conservative, pro-American leader took office in February.
Some 18,300 police were on high alert with riot gear and bomb-sniffing dogs to maintain order during Bush's brief visit, the National Police Agency said.
About 30,000 people gathered in front of Seoul City Hall for an afternoon Christian prayer service supporting Bush's trip. Large South Korean and U.S. flags were held aloft by balloons overhead along with a banner reading, "Welcome President Bush."
George W. Bush was greeted by both anti and pro-US rallies as he arrived for a two-day visit.
Protestors were objecting to the decision to lift a ban on US beef imports and President Bush's stance toward Iran, whilst thousands of people held a prayer service to welcome him.
In Seoul, he will discuss security and finance matters with President Lee Myung-bak. But North Korea is likely to be the issue that hangs over all else.
President Bush has said he welcomes North Korea's recent declaration of its plutonium enrichment activities, and the destruction of the cooling tower at its Yongbyon reactor. But he says the North must still agree to a verification process.
President Bush offered a mixed assessment of China's role in the world, praising its efforts to curb the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran, expressing disappointment about its recent move to help scuttle global trade talks, and saying that it is "really hard to tell" whether human rights in China have improved over the past eight years.
During a half-hour interview in his private office aboard Air Force One, Bush emphasized that it is "important to engage the Chinese" -- a striking comment for a president who came to office with aides depicting China as a "strategic competitor" and surrounded by hawks who looked suspiciously upon the Chinese government. Even critics of the president say he has emerged as an unexpected diplomat with China, conducting a personal campaign to woo the senior Chinese leadership.