Japan said it has confirmed its 17th case of mad cow disease in an animal, amid pressure from the United States to resume imports of its beef, the AFP news agency reported.

The four-and-a-half-year-old female Holstein was killed on Monday in the northern island of Hokkaido after it became unable to stand on its own, a classic symptom of the disease, the agency said, citing an agriculture ministry statement.

Japan is the only Asian country to have confirmed cases of BSE.

Japan uncovered its first case in September 2001 and soon afterwards introduced measures to screen every cow slaughtered for consumption.

The 17th case came as US lawmakers threaten sanctions on Japan unless it resumes buying American beef.

Japan halted imports of US beef in December 2003 after a cow infected with BSE was discovered in the US state of Washington. Before then, it was the top export market for US beef.

Japan has insisted it will wait for approval on how to test animals by its Food Safety Commission, a process which could take months.

The United States has also banned Japanese beef imports due to its mad cow cases.

In December, Japan suffered its first human fatality from mad cow, a man who is believed to have contracted the disease when eating meat in Britain in 1990.