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Tuesday, 10 December, 2002, 09:23 GMT
US official met by Korean anger
Protesters have their hair cut during an anti-US rally at a church in Seoul, Tuesday, 10 Dec. 2002
Protesters want a military accord with the US revised
The American deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, has arrived in South Korea amid the biggest anti-American protests the country has seen in recent years.

The acquittal last month of two US soldiers involved in a road accident which killed two South Korean schoolgirls has fuelled resentment against the 37,000 US troops stationed in South Korea.

Protesters shout a slogan during an anti-US rally to oppose Mr Armitage's visit near the US embassy in Seoul
Mr Armitage's visit is a new focus for the protests
Mr Armitage is in South Korea on the second stop of a four-nation tour of Asia aimed at seeking support for a possible US-led attack on Iraq, and for talks on efforts to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear programme.

But the BBC's Caroline Gluck in Seoul says much of Mr Armitage's discussions with senior government officials are expected to centre on ways of reducing South Korea's public anger against the US military.

Rising tension

The schoolgirls' deaths have sparked a steady stream of protests since the acquittal of Sergeant Fernando Nino and Sergeant Mark Walker on charges of negligent homicide.

Recent rallies have been drawing thousands of supporters.

Our correspondent says the protests have become more politicised and heated in the run-up to the presidential election, which takes place in just over a week's time.

Protesters are demanding that the two US soldiers be retried in a South Korean court and that the Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa), covering the legal status of the American troops, be revised to give South Korea more jurisdictional power.

Some 40 demonstrators, including the fathers of the two girls, gathered outside the US embassy in central Seoul on Tuesday to protest the visit by Mr Armitage.

Handling North Korea

"Oppose the war on Iraq! End US hostility toward North Korea! Condemn the Armitage visit!" they shouted.

In addition to resentment over the school girls' accident, analysts say the current anti-US sentiment is fed by alarm over Washington's hard line toward neighbouring North Korea.

Mr Armitage will meet South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and the country's foreign and defence ministers on Tuesday.

They will address, among other issues, ways to limit the current anti-US tension, although Washington has already ruled out revising Sofa.

Mr Armitage will then travel to China on Wednesday and to Australia later in the week.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Caroline Gluck reports from Seoul
"Some bars and restaurants have stopped serving Americans"
See also:

08 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
03 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
28 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
25 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
07 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
05 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
29 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
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