SEOUL – South Korean President Lee Myung-bak promised on Thursday to keep U.S. beef out of the South Korean market unless the United States bans meat from older cattle.

Lee made the promise in a national address, trying to defuse a domestic political crisis. Thousands of people have protested the April beef deal because of fears about mad cow disease. Older cattle are thought to be more susceptible to the neurological disease.

Lee reportedly said that he had told U.S. President George W. Bush that he will “ensure that U.S. beef older than 30 months will not be put on our dinner tables as long as people don't want it.”

Lee made the comments as negotiators from both countries were meeting to discuss restricting U.S. beef imports to younger cattle.

The beef deal was made in April to ensure the passage of a free trade agreement by the two countries in the U.S. Congress.

Lee said "there was no possibility of ratification" this year of the free-trade deal if South Korea continued to reject American beef, he said. The free-trade agreement has been approved by both governments but still must be ratified by legislators in South Korea and Washington.


Source: Associated Press