N Korea gives torch smooth welcome

Incident-free parade gives China face after prior protests mar Olympic build-up.

    China's state-run media says the torch relay through  Pyongyang will 'astonish the world' [Reuters]

    The first runner in the North Korean torch relay was soccer legend Pak Du Ik.

     

    Soccer legend

     

    Pak played as part of North Korea's 1966 World Cup soccer team that made a historic run to the quarter-finals.

     

    As he began the 20-kilometre route through Pyongyang, thousands of cheering people lined the city streets waving pink paper flowers and small flags with the Beijing Olympics logo.

    UNICEF, the UN children's agency, had earlier been asked to participate in the North Korean leg of the relay.

     

    But it withdrew in March, saying that it questioned whether the event would help its mission of raising awareness of conditions for children.

    The torch arrived early on Monday by plane from rival South
    Korea
    , where China's treatment of North Korean refugees sparked protests against the relay.

    On Sunday, clashes broke out in Seoul near the relay start between a group of 500 Chinese supporters and about 50 demonstrators criticising Beijing's policies.


    The students threw stones and water bottles as some 2,500 police tried to keep the two sides apart.

    Diplomatic 'regret'

     

    Lee Yong-joon, South Korea's deputy foreign minister, expressed strong
    regret over the clashes in a meeting Monday with Ning Fukui, China's ambassador to Seoul.

     

    Ning also said he regretted the "extreme behaviour" by some young Chinese and expressed his condolences to police and a journalist who was injured, the South's Foreign Ministry said.

    Police said four other people were arrested for trying to disrupt the relay.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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