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From: TSS ()
Subject: Japan In No Hurry To Lift U.S. Beef Ban
Date: October 26, 2005 at 9:36 am PST

10/26/2005 8:18:00 AM

Japan In No Hurry To Lift U.S. Beef Ban

TOKYO (AP)--Japan is in no hurry to lift its two-year ban on U.S. beef imports, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Wednesday, after a government panel delayed a decision earlier this week on whether to declare American beef safe for consumption in Japan.

Speaking at a parliamentary debate, Koizumi rebuffed the opposition Democratic Party of Japan's assertion that a visit by President George W. Bush next month will hasten Tokyo's decision to restart U.S. beef imports.

"It doesn't have to be resolved by then. That is a misperception," Koizumi told DPJ leader Seiji Maehara.

But the premier called for further discussions "so that Japanese can soon eat safe foreign beef, including U.S. beef."

On Monday, a government panel on the mad cow disease delayed a decision on whether to declare U.S. beef imports safe, despite drafting a report that the risk from U.S. beef is very low.

U.S. lawmakers, frustrated with Japan's foot-dragging, have pushed to impose tariffs on Japanese products if Japan doesn't reopen its domestic market to U.S. beef by the end of the year. Some in Japan have voiced worries that the row over beef could affect relations between the allies ahead of Bush's visit to Tokyo, scheduled for Nov. 15-16.

Japan bought more than $1 billion worth of U.S. beef in 2003, making it the most lucrative overseas market for American beef products. But the country imposed a ban on U.S. beef in December of that year, days after the country confirmed its first case of mad cow disease.

The Japanese public has been wary of resuming U.S. beef imports, with a poll published Wednesday saying nearly 70% of Japanese are opposed to lifting the ban.

The survey, by national newspaper Asahi Shimbun, found 67% of respondents were against resuming imports of U.S. meat, up from 63% in a similar poll taken in October 2004. The telephone survey polled 1,998 people and provided no margin of error.

Mad cow disease - bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE - affects cows that are fed with the remains of other cattle infected with the disease. Infected beef is thought to cause a fatal brain disorder in humans that has killed more than 150 people, mostly in Britain, since the 1990s.

The row over beef imports follows an agreement between Tokyo and Washington over the relocation of a U.S. air station in southern Japan on Wednesday, resolving a dispute that had blocked progress on military realignment talks and caused friction between the two countries.


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