WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Monday the partial lifting of its four-year-old import ban on Japanese beef, while welcoming Tokyo's decision the previous day to resume imports of U.S. beef after a two-year ban.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation said the first shipment of U.S. beef will leave Denver on Saturday and arrive at Narita International Airport on Sunday, where a ceremony attended by U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer will be held to mark the reopening of the Japanese market.

Washington banned imports of Japanese beef in September 2001 after an outbreak of mad cow disease in Japan, while Tokyo imposed its ban on U.S. beef in December 2003, when the first case of the disease was discovered in the United States.