South Korea rejects three successive US beef shipments as fragmented bone were found in the consignments. South Korea agreed last year to lift a three-year ban on beef imports from the US after Seoul conceded, allowing boneless beef, as it was banned after an outbreak of mad-cow disease in the United States in 2003. Japan too banned U.S. beef. The US embassy in Seoul has now asked South Korea to resume beef imports ahead of free trade talks on the issue and State, assure to level all safety standards on further beef shipments. Officials in Washington have suggested the impasse over beef shipments may delay the ratification of a crucial bilateral free trade deal by Congress. Since last March, the United States and South Korea have been straining to complete the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement. Both governments claim it will yield more jobs and cheaper goods, but South Koreans seem suspicious. A seventh round of free-trade talks is scheduled for February 11-14 in Washington.