President to attend Olympic opening ceremonies

July 3, 2008 1:35:42 PM PDT
President Bush will attend the opening ceremonies of Olympics in Beijing. While there was no question the president would attend the Olympic Games in August, his plans for the opening ceremonies had not been confirmed until now. Some world leaders have said they may boycott the Aug. 8 opening event to protest the most recent Chinese security crackdown in Tibetan areas of China.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said Thursday that Bush in August will travel to South Korea, Thailand and China and will attend the opening ceremonies of the games.

The trip is built around the Olympics, which the White House long has said Bush plans to attend as a celebration of sports. Just hours earlier, the White House was equivocating about whether Bush would attend the opening ceremonies.

At first, Perino said "I would certainly think" that the opening ceremonies would be part of his trip. Questioned whether that was what she meant to say, she backtracked and said, "I said it's a distinct possibility" and that the opening ceremonies "could be part of the schedule."

Firm dates for Bush's travels have not been released. The president and first lady Laura Bush will begin their trip in South Korea, the site of violent protests over the import of U.S. beef. Anti-government protests about the matter have raged for weeks and turned central Seoul into a riot zone.

Perino said Bush and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak would discuss a proposed free-trade agreement along with regional and global security matters.

Bush then will travel to Thailand to celebrate its long-standing relationship with the United States and confer with Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, Perino said.

In China, the Bush with meet with President Hu Jintao. A key focus will be the multicountry effort to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons capability. Then the president and the first lady will attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, Perino said.