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China to share records on fine dust with Korea

Plans to work together on air quality between Seoul, Beijing, Tokyo
Nov 26,2019
The Chinese government will be sharing with Korea its records on fine dust pollution in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei from this year, the Korean Ministry of Environment announced Monday.

“From this year, the Chinese government will be sharing information on the air quality in the areas of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei with the Korea-China Environmental Cooperation Center,” the Ministry of Environment said in a statement Monday. “The Korean government will be using this information from December to better predict and determine when to issue fine dust warnings for citizens.”

The statement was issued following the 21st Tripartite Environment Ministers Meeting in Kitakyushu, Japan, from Saturday to Sunday, which saw the participation of minsters Koizumi Shinjiro of Japan, Cho Myung-rae of Korea and Li Ganjie of China.

The ministry said they reviewed the Tripartite Joint Action Plan on Environmental Cooperation for the period of 2015 to 2019 and discussed priority objectives for the agreement for 2020 to 2024, which will be signed at the Tripartite Environment Ministers Meeting in Korea in 2020.

The priority areas, they said, will be on air quality improvement, waste management, marine and water environment conservation, climate change, biodiversity, emergency responses to chemical disasters, green economy and education on environmental conservation.

“In a trilateral meeting coming up in Hainan [China] in February, the ministries will be discussing in detail another plan to work on air quality together from 2020 to 2024,” said the Korean Environment Ministry in its statement.

Fine dust pollution has seen its worst levels in recent years in Seoul. Causes have been attributed to local sources such as emissions from vehicles and factories and international sources such as fine dust particles flying in from China.

Korea’s National Institute of Environmental Research announced last week the results of a joint Korea-China-Japan study on fine dust pollution in 12 cities across the three nations from 2000 to 2017.

It said 32 percent of PM2.5 fine dust pollution in Korea, on average, was a result of dust particles flying in from China, while 51 percent of the PM2.5 pollution was due to local sources in Korea.

The Korean government also conveyed its concerns regarding radioactive waters off the coast of Japan.

“In a meeting with Japanese Environment Minister Koizumi, [Korean] Minister Cho conveyed our concerns regarding the management of radiation-contaminated water from Fukushima,” the Korean Environment Ministry said in its statement. “We asked them to transparently share the process of the waste water management with the international community.”

A massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011, causing a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Tokyo Electric Power Company, the state-run operator of the plant, says it will run out of space to store contaminated water by 2022.

Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it first became aware of Japan’s alleged plans to dump contaminated water into the sea in August last year. In October 2018, Seoul sent what’s called a non-paper, an informal diplomatic note, to Japan to relay its concerns and ask about the situation, the ministry said.

Tokyo informed Seoul it would explain the issue to the international community eventually, according to the ministry, effectively ignoring Korea’s concerns.

In January this year, Shaun Burnie, a nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany, raised fresh concerns about alleged plans by the Japanese government to dump over 1 million tons of radioactive water stored at the Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, warning it would affect Korea.

On Sept. 5, the Korean government submitted a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency to ask the agency to play a greater role in resolving the multinational issue.

BY ESTHER CHUNG, KANG CHAN-SU [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]