Bush to attend Olympics

President Bush will attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing, the White House said Thursday. The announcement quashed any talk of a presidential boycott over China's violent crackdown after anti-government riots and protests in Tibet.

The White House had been reluctant to confirm Bush's plans for the opening event, although there was no doubt he would attend the Olympic Games. While other world leaders have talked of boycotting the Aug. 8 opening ceremonies, Bush's aides have signaled for weeks he was unlikely to do so.

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

Bush's trip is built around the Olympics, which the White House long has said Bush plans to attend as a celebration of sports. Bush also will be dealing with the tense matters of U.S. beef imports in South Korea and the effort to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons.

Any Olympic protest by the U.S. would have deeply offended a proud Beijing leadership that hopes the games will show China's emergence as a new world power. It also would run the risk of hindering a host of international efforts the Bush administration needs China's help to solve, including efforts to confront Myanmar's military junta and nuclear efforts in North Korea and Iran.

The trip will begin 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 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, Bush will meet with President Hu Jintao. A key focus will be the six-country 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.

Critics of China have said if Bush were to avoid the opening ceremony, it would send a powerful signal of international anger over China's violent response to demonstrations in Tibet in March.