WASHINGTON (Kyodo) U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns expressed hope Tuesday that Japan will resume imports of U.S. beef in June, saying he is optimistic even though Tokyo refused to set a timeline during talks last week.

“I think the time frame is moving along. Needless to say, we’d love to see beef in Japan in June,” Johanns told reporters after addressing a forum.

“I think we’re getting there. I’m optimistic,” he said while acknowledging that the Japanese side avoided setting a date during the Tokyo talks.

In bilateral technical talks last week in Tokyo, Japan approved the outcomes of U.S. safety inspections at meatpacking plants eligible for export to Japan, an approval possibly facilitating a Japanese decision as early as in mid-June to lift the ban.

Japanese government sources said imports are not expected to begin until July due to other technical procedures that will have to be carried out.

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