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Last Updated: Friday, 2 February 2007, 11:25 GMT
Beef row imperils US-Korea trade
Beef imports are a bone of contention between the two nations
Free trade talks between South Korea and the US face new obstacles after Seoul rejected three successive US beef shipments on safety grounds.

South Korea agreed last year to lift a three-year ban on beef imports from the US, prompted by BSE fears.

However, the first three shipments have all been turned away after they were found to contain bone fragments.

The US embassy in Seoul has now asked South Korea to resume beef imports ahead of talks on the issue.

The embassy used a Korean language internet forum to state that US safety standards would be applied to all beef shipments.

Serious implications

South Korea's Deputy Agriculture Minister Min Dong-seok said he expected a formal meeting with US officials to discuss the issue next week.

Seoul suspended US beef imports in December 2003 after the first case of mad cow disease in the US.

At the time, two-thirds of South Korea's beef imports came from the US.

Officials in Washington have suggested the impasse over beef shipments may delay the ratification of a crucial bilateral free trade deal by Congress.

The latest round of free trade talks between the two nations is due to commence in Washington on 11 February.

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