EDITORIAL: Environmental cooperation a first step toward rebuilding ties with China, South Korea

May 08, 2013

Japan, China and South Korea agreed to beef up cooperation and establish a forum for strategic dialogue to combat air pollution plaguing China during the Tripartite Environment Ministers Meeting held on May 5 and 6 in Kita-Kyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture.

Close intergovernmental collaboration is indispensable to preventing cross-border air pollution by PM2.5 (particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers).

We hope the latest tripartite agreement represents the first step in the right direction.

But Zhou Shengxian, China’s environmental protection minister, sat out the Kita-Kyushu meeting. In his place, Vice Minister Li Ganjie attended. Beijing has yet to soften its stance due to the Senkaku Islands dispute.

Still, the fact that Beijing sent its No. 2 environment official must mean it knows it cannot do without the cooperation of Japan, which has expertise in tackling environmental problems.

Air pollution by PM2.5 is understood to be caused by multiple factors, including car and factory exhaust, coal dust and pollutants generated from construction sites. As such, there is no simple solution.

Obviously, the primary responsibility lies with the Chinese government, which has put economic growth ahead of environmental protection.

However, many Japanese companies are operating in China, which means Japan is not entirely blameless, either.

In addition, the air pollution in China is causing problems in various parts of Japan, including Kita-Kyushu, the venue of the environment ministers’ meeting.

Environmental pollution crosses national borders. Japan has no choice but to commit to cross-border cooperation.

The Japanese government has a wealth of environmental policies to draw upon, and many Japanese companies are world leaders in environmental protection technology. Their expertise is a result of many sacrifices caused by environmental pollution at home.

Whether for profit or not, there is much that Japan can do to help.

In China earlier this month, citizens’ protested the construction of new factories in Shanghai and Kunming. The Chinese people’s environmental awareness is growing rapidly, and Japan’s offer of cooperation would help mitigate their hard feelings toward Japan.

Environmental protection is not the only area where Japan, China and South Korea ought to work together. But a tripartite summit slated for May has been postponed, and a planned meeting of the finance ministers and central bank governors of the three countries has been canceled.

North Korea remains their shared problem, and they need to move forward on trade partnership talks. Given this reality, the present situation is an anomaly that must not be allowed to continue.

We are all neighbors who cannot relocate to avoid one another. The only way to go is to rebuild a relationship of trust by promoting steady cooperation in areas where everyone’s interests match.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 8

  • 1
submit to reddit
Representatives from South Korea, Japan and China at the Tripartite Environment Ministers Meeting in Kita-Kyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, on May 6 (The Asahi Shimbun)

Representatives from South Korea, Japan and China at the Tripartite Environment Ministers Meeting in Kita-Kyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, on May 6 (The Asahi Shimbun)

Toggle
  • Representatives from South Korea, Japan and China at the Tripartite Environment Ministers Meeting in Kita-Kyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, on May 6 (The Asahi Shimbun)

More AJW