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South Korea is seeking to arrest 37 anti-U.S. protesters

By Staff
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PYONGTAEK, South Korea, May 6: South Korea is seeking to arrest 37 anti-U.S. protesters suspected of taking part in violent battles with police at a planned site for a new U S military base, a prosecution official said today.

About 1,000 protesters clashed with police over the past two days after military engineers on Thursday cordoned off two townships, about 70 km (44 miles) south of Seoul, where South Korea and the United States have agreed to relocate the main U S base in Seoul and several others across the country.

Scores of protesters, police and several journalists were injured, some seriously, as riot police cleared the way for the engineers as they battled and eventually overpowered protesters.

Protesters said they were planning to march into the fenced-off site later today.

''We sought arrest warrants today against those who had actively exerted violence, wielding bamboo sticks and iron pipes,'' said Kang Chan-woo, a spokesman at the Supreme Prosecutors' Office.

The confrontation that erupted on Thursday had been brewing for months as about 100 farmers refused to vacate the area.

It was one of the biggest brawls in years between police and demonstrators in South Korea, which has a history of violent protests.

Residents, mostly elderly farmers and young activists who have recently moved to the area, are demanding a stop to the construction and have said no amount of compensation from the government would justify them leaving.

Defence Minister Yoon Kwang-ung has said the base relocation, which had been agreed to by Seoul and Washington in 2004 and authorised by South Korea's parliament, could no longer wait.

About 30,000 U S troops are stationed in the country alongside the South Korean military to guard against possible aggression by communist North Korea.

South and North Korea remain technically at war under a truce that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

REUTERS

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