U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns on Wednesday expressed Washington's intention to press Japan to start importing U.S. beef from cows older than 30 months.

Johanns said at a press conference, What we hope to accomplish with Japan...is to move them to the international standard, insisting that Japan's safety concerns with mad cow disease should compromise with the international standards.

Japan announced last month its decision to resume beef imports from the United States, with regulations beef imports from cows younger than 21 months. Japan first banned beef imports from the United States in December 2003 when a cow in Washington state tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy

(BSE, or mad cow disease).

Although Japan partially lifted the ban in December 2005, imports were banned once again just a month later when an importer failed to remove backbone in a shipment of veal at Japan’ Narita airport. Surveys show that the incident significantly raised distrust among the Japanese regarding U.S. products.

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) protects that meat taken from cows aged 30 months or under can be freely traded regardless of the risk status related to mad cow disease.

Among four major foreign markets for United States, Canada and Mexico are again accepting U.S. beef, but Japan and Korea were not.

In June, South Korea decided to relay its resumption of US beef imports, after finding problems at US meat processing facilities.