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S. Korea Not Ready to Lift US Beef Ban

South Korea says it will not lift its ban on U.S. beef imports until it is convinced of the safety of the meat supply from the United States. The South Koreans, like the Japanese, want strict safety detection measures implemented by Washington.

South Korea's agriculture minister reported that Seoul might ask for even stricter measures than those demanded by Tokyo to ensure that U.S. beef products are free of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, known as mad cow disease.

The report was delivered at a cabinet meeting to President Roh Moo-hyun. It calls for scientific proof that American cattle are free of the brain-wasting disease.

The head of the delegation, trade advisor David Hegwood, said the group did not ask the Koreans to lift the import ban, and said there were no discussions about the conditions for eventually allowing U.S. beef back into the country. He said the delegation's purpose was to outline to the Koreans the measures the United States is taking to prevent the spread of the disease.

The delegation asked Japan on Monday to lift its ban, but the Japanese refused, saying it was premature to do so.

South Korea, Japan, and more than 30 other countries halted beef imports from America last week after the Agriculture Department said one Holstein A delegation from the Department of Agriculture was met at Seoul's Kimpo Airport by several activists who chanted "No Mad Cow."

cow from Washington State had tested positive for BSE, the first time the illness has been detected in the United States.

Japan and South Korea are the two largest export markets for U.S. beef. South Korea imported more than $650 million worth of beef from the United States last year.

A South Korean agriculture official says Seoul is considering an invitation by the delegation to send a team to the United States to view testing procedures for itself. Japan has said it would send its own team early next month.