Korea to push fine dust issue in talks with Beijing

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Korea to push fine dust issue in talks with Beijing

Korea and China will hold a flurry of bilateral talks over a range of environmental issues next month, officials in Seoul said Sunday, as Seoul is pushing to crank up diplomatic efforts to tackle fine dust pollution.

Officials at the Ministry of Environment said that the countries will hold the 23rd session of their joint committee on environmental cooperation, working-level talks and a meeting of their Beijing-based environmental cooperation center in Seoul from Jan. 23-24.

The working-level talks and the cooperation center meeting were originally set for this month, but they have been postponed at China’s request.

The environmental talks have been arranged as Korea has been grappling with worsening air quality, as clouds of fine dust, thought to originate from China and domestic smog, cover the sky with a yellow haze. Fine dust is known to cause various respiratory problems.

President Moon Jae-in and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed to make joint efforts to address environmental issues during their summit on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Papua New Guinea last month.

In line with a 1993 agreement, the two countries have held the joint committee session alternatively in their respective capitals.

The working-level talks and the environmental cooperation center session were launched when the center opened in June. The center is a command center for the two countries’ environmental cooperation projects.

Observers say that a key agenda item for the series of environmental dialogue is likely to be cooperation over fine dust pollution. They could discuss joint research on air quality and measures to reduce air pollution in their capitals among other things.

During a policy briefing last week, Seoul’s Environment Minister Cho Myung-rae pledged to more actively push for policy measures to mitigate the impact of fine dust coming from China.

“We have so far been trying to solidify the foundation for cooperation, but next year, we will push for projects that will yield results from that cooperation,” he said.

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