Statement by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns regarding the rejection of U.S. beef shipments by South Korea Dec. 6, 2006:

"I am very disappointed in the decision by South Korea to reject all three U.S. beef shipments sent since South Korean leaders announced on Sept. 11, 2006 that their border is open to U.S. beef. The rejection of the third shipment clearly illustrates that South Korean officials are determined to find an excuse to reject all beef products from the United States.

"There is absolutely no food safety issue with any one of these shipments. I find it difficult to accept that bone fragments the size of one half of a grain of rice were found through visual inspection of 10 metric tons of beef, as is South Korea's claim regarding the third shipment, despite the fact that it went through unusually rigorous inspection by the U.S. exporter before it was shipped. I can only conclude that these actions are designed to restrict beef trade.

"Today, South Korean officials have sent the message that their market is not commercially viable for U.S. beef. South Korea is attempting to claim its border is open to U.S. beef while refusing to allow trade to take place. This is unacceptable and certainly not the way trading partners should work with one another.

"It is our intention to work with the U.S. Trade Representative to examine all options available to the U.S. to legitimately open the South Korean market to U.S. beef. Our objective is to implement a trade agreement for beef that reflects science-based international guidelines and facilitates real trade."

SOURCE: USDA news release.