President Bush is traveling to Japan early next month for a summit of leading industrialized nations, but is skipping for now a widely expected stop in South Korea, the White House said Tuesday.
This year's meeting of leaders from the Group of Eight countries is being held in Lake Toya in northern Japan. It will be Bush's last as president. The G-8 nations are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the U.S.
The nations have invited African leaders to a special meeting at the summit. Also taking place on the sidelines is a so-called "major economies" meeting, part of a global effort to find a new climate change agreement. The major economies are the 17 largest emitters of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, led by the United States and China.
The White House denied that Bush was declining to travel to South Korea because of enormous anti-American protests there. An April accord calling for the planned resumption of U.S. beef imports sparked weeks of street rallies that occasionally turned violent.
A new deal was struck last week restricting the U.S. beef imports into South Korea to younger cattle, considered less at risk of carrying mad cow disease. But most of the South Korean public still is opposed and demonstrations have continued.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Bush would meet with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on the sidelines of the G-8 summit in Japan. And she suggested that a South Korean visit could happen later, perhaps when Bush travels to China in August for the Olympics.
U.S. beef was banned from South Korea in 2003, after the first case of mad cow disease was discovered in cattle there. South Korea had previously been the third-largest market for American beef. Both U.S. and South Korean officials have insisted that the American beef is safe.