SEOUL – The South Korean government said Thursday that it will go ahead with a U.S. beef deal that has sparked protests across the Asian nation.

According to the Associated Press, Agriculture Minister Chung Woon-chun said in a nationally televised announcement that the government has finalized new quarantine regulations for U.S. beef in accordance with an April 18 agreement with Washington.

The new rules will mean that South Korea will import nearly all cuts of American beef without restrictions on the age of the cattle. The rules take effect as soon as they are published in the next few day, the news service reported.

Chung sought to dispel public concern over mad cow disease, saying the government would immediately halt imports if a new case of the illness breaks out in the United States, according to the AP. Thousands of consumers have protested in South Korea over fears of mad cow disease from U.S. beef, with rallies in Seoul.

The rallies have been mostly peaceful, although tensions flared this week after the government instructed police to take a harder line, the news service said. Police have detained more than 200 protesters in recent days, later releasing 92.