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(LEAD) Police disperse protesters at Jeju's naval base construction site

All Headlines 10:41 September 02, 2011

(ATTN: UPDATES with police crackdown on protesters, background throughout; ADDS photo)

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea, Sept. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's military resumed construction of a naval base on this southern island on Friday as riot police dispersed a group of sit-in protesters who have been occupying the site despite an eviction order.

The Seogwipo Police Station mobilized about 600 riot police troops at around 5 a.m. to order nearly 100 residents and anti-base activists to leave the site in Gangjeong Village on the southern coast of the island.

There were violent clashes between police and protesters, but the Navy set up fences around the site to block off protesters and resumed the construction work, which has been stalled since June.

At least 30 protesters who put up a violent resistance against riot troops were detained, according to officials.

The police crackdown came as the Jeju District Court on Monday approved an injunction sought by the local government and the Navy against the protesters.

As of 8 a.m., additional 400 riot police officers were sent to the site to prepare for a possible standoff, officials said.

South Korea's military started construction of the naval base near the village on the resort island's southern coast facing the South China Sea in January, saying the facility is necessary to strengthen national security by increasing military mobility in the southern maritime territory.

But construction was suspended in June, when a group of village residents and civic activists occupied the site, claiming that it will eventually be used to accommodate U.S. troops and thus ignite a conflict with China.

Once completed in 2014, the new base will be home to about 20 naval vessels and two 150,000-ton cruisers. According to the defense ministry, about 14 percent of the construction work has been completed.


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