SEOUL — A senior South Korean government official said anyone who breaks the law while protesting the U.S. military expansion in South Korea will face strict punishment.

Lee Yong-sup, minister of Government Administration and Home Affairs, made the comments while visiting police headquarters on contested land outside Camp Humphreys on Monday, a ministry spokesman confirmed.

“Illegal, violent protesters will be punished harshly following the law,” Lee said, according to his spokesman.

South Korean officials purchased about 2,300 acres of farmland outside the camp as part of an agreement that will see Humphreys triple in size and become the main installation on the peninsula.

Local villages and anti-American activists have staged massive and often-violent protest rallies since mid-2005.

On May 4, thousands of riot police raided Daechu-ri, the village where most of the protesters were squatting. The government declared the site a “restricted-access military zone,” and South Korean engineer troops have set up miles of concertina razor-wire and constructed water-filled trenches and other obstacles.

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