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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #286: March 22, 2005

Beef Row Looms on Rice Japan Trip

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Beef Row Looms on Rice Japan Trip
(Jonathan Head) BBC News


The U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has just wrapped up her whirlwind tour through Asia, leaving clear messages with regard to the foreign policies of Bush administration, and homework for some governments she visited.

As for Japan, though, there was not much really new. In fact, as was described in the article above reporting the Secretary's visit, "for every US official on tour in Asia, Japan is seen as a rest stop - a place to draw breath before tackling the diplomatic challenges posed by neighboring states." It was apparently such for Ms Rice as well. After all, as the same article describes, "Japan has been the U.S.' strongest ally in Asia for 50 years. In recent years the alliance has grown even stronger."

The issue of (lifting of) import ban of U.S. beef indeed exits, and there are reports of some U.S. politicians expressing frustration on the slow process of Japan's review of the policy - a protest seemingly timed to match the Secretary's visit.

Japan banned imports of U.S. beef after a case of BSE (mad cow disease) was found in a cow imported from Canada to the United States in December 2003. On October 23, 2004, Japan and the U.S. agreed to a framework to allow resumption of beef imports, lifting the import ban for beef from young cows.

There have been arguments since, however, with regard to the method of determining the age of the cow, as individual cows are not kept track of in the U.S., and the age could only be estimated by viewing the meat with human eyes. Japan's food safety authorities, an independent arm of the government, is still analyzing possible ways to resume trade, which most of the Japanese people are waiting anxiously as well.

That said, despite the politically enhanced language describing the issue, beef is hardly considered a vital factor to endanger the Japan-U.S. relations in a broad sense.

The speech delivered by Ms Rice, especially the most extensive of which presented at Sophia University in central Tokyo, gave the impression that the reference to the beef issue was inserted at the last moment as, among other things, it is short and lacks contextual rhyme with other parts of the text.

Some cynics say it was good that the beef issue was looming between Japan and the U.S. at the occasion of the Secretary's visit. Because, they say, if it were not for the issue, there were no conflict of views between the two governments, and, the visit would not have attracted much media attention.

Japan-U.S. relation is apparently so good that they need to look for something controversial to maintain their diplomatic alertness.

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