SEOUL, South Korea — Dueling protests by flag-waving supporters and raucous demonstrators doused by police water cannons greeted President Bush as he began his three-nation trip with a meeting today with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak.
Bush, speaking at a news conference, said North Korea has much to do before the United States can remove it from the terror blacklist, but he raised hope that its pariah status as a member of the "axis of evil" status could some day end.
Pyongyang expects Bush to remove it from the U.S. list of terror-sponsoring countries as soon as next weekend, as promised when the North blew up its nuclear reactor cooling tower in June.
Bush once branded North Korea as part of an "axis of evil," along with prewar Iraq and Iran, and spoke derisively of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Today, Bush said, "My hope is that the axis of evil list no longer exists. That's my hope for the sake of peace."
At a grassy plaza in central Seoul, 30,000 people gathered under large South Korean and American flags held aloft by balloons, along with a banner that read, "Welcome President Bush." Man were middle-age Christian church members who chanted "Amen!" as a senior pastor shouted from the podium that anti-Bush protesters were "satanic" forces.
About 20,000 protesters, mostly young people, rallied in central Seoul, holding candles and signs that said "Bush out!"