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President Bush Begins Weeklong Tour of Asia

An estimated 15,000 people gathered at a pro-U.S. rally in the city center, a far cry from the massive anti-government protests after President Lee Myung-bak agreed to end a ban on U.S. beef imports. The ban had been in place for five years over concerns of mad cow disease.

A few hundred anti-Bush protesters were disbursed after a brief burst of a water cannon by police, reported Reuters.

The furor over allowing U.S. imports of beef has receded since the United States and South Korea reworked an April deal to lift the ban.

“That agreement seems to be working extremely well,” said Dennis Wilder, the White House National Security Council’s senior director for Asian affairs, quoted Reuters.

President Bush intends to discuss trade and military matters during his visit to Seoul. He also will talk about North Korea’s progress in verifying its nuclear weapons program, said Wilder. The North has submitted a long-awaited accounting of its plutonium-related activities and destroyed the cooling tower at its reactor in Yongbyon.

The president’s next stop is Bangkok on Wednesday, where he will highlight conditions in Myanmar, also known as Burma, which is still recovering from a cyclone that hit the nation in May.

Although the official reason for the visit is to celebrate 175 years of U.S.-Thai relations, President Bush plans to meet with dissidents of Myanmar and get briefed on cyclone recovery efforts, according to the Voice of America.

First lady Laura Bush also plans to travel to the Thai-Myanmar border to visit a refugee center and a clinic.

The Bushes then head to Beijing for the Olympics, where Mr. Bush will become the first U.S. president to attend the Olympic Games in another country.

President Bush has said the purpose for his visit is to cheer on the athletes. He also said he will raise issues including human rights with China, but in private — not at the Games.

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