South Korea may become the latest country to open its borders to US beef, after officials from the country said they would begin talks to ease a ban put in place over fears of mad cow disease.

South Korea had been the third largest market for US beef.

The move by the Korean's follows the relaxation of a similar ban in Japan. Shipments of beef began to reach Japan this weekend after the Japanese Food Safety Commission concluded in November that beef from US cattle aged 20 months or younger represents a very low BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) risk if materials such as the spinal cord, which can carry the disease, are removed.

South Korea and the US will still need to agree certain import conditions, such as naming which US slaughterhouses would be allowed to process beef going to South Korea, officials were reported saying today.