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PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — South Korean authorities under heavy police escort Wednesday took the first steps toward sealing off a large tract of contested farmland that is to eventually become part of an expanded Camp Humphreys.

Some local residents who oppose the expansion scuffled with South Korean riot police and four female protesters were injured and taken to area hospitals, police said.

Police also made arrests but had no immediate word Wednesday night on how many.

The South Korean government has taken control of the land so the U.S. military can triple Camp Humphreys’ size and turn it into its main installation in South Korea by 2008.

Work crews Wednesday began setting up fencing and digging trenches across roads to prevent farmers from working the rice fields, something growers have threatened to begin doing Friday in defiance of the expansion plan.

“We are planning to set up barbed-wire fences,” an official at South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said Wednesday.

About 120 South Korea Ministry of National Defense workers operated under the protection of some 4,300 riot-equipped Korean National Police officers who were moved into the area. Police said protesters gained control of two backhoes, leading to some of the scuffling.

Some residents of Daechu-ri, a farming village that borders Camp Humphreys, have said they are ready to face arrest and even death rather than allow the South Korean government to evict them from their homes.

Camp Humphreys officials, meanwhile, imposed travel restrictions on several areas outside the installation in case of further trouble between police and resisters.

Inside Camp Humphreys, officials banned vehicles and pedestrians along the northern perimeter road, between the Third Military Intelligence Battalion headquarters area and the main gate of the South Korean Ministry of National Defense Compound in the Zoeckler Station section of the post.

When post officials will lift the restrictions “has not been determined yet,” said Camp Humphreys spokeswoman Susan Barley.

Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.

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