Japan, China and South Korea discussed cross-border environmental issues including airborne toxic pollutants as they began a two-day meeting of environment ministers Sunday in Kitakyushu, southwestern Japan.
"Partnership is particularly important over the issue of the environment," said Japanese parliamentary secretary for environment Kozo Akino in his opening remark to the annual event launched in 1999, referring to the host city's history of overcoming pollution in collaboration with businesses and citizens.
Japan's exposure to air pollution originating in China has recently been highlighted by incidents of PM2.5, hazardous particulate matter measuring below 2.5 microns, reaching Japanese cities after drifting from the neighboring country.
Participants including businesspeople and college students from the countries as well as the ministers discussed topics such as the development of ecologically focused businesses and communities. They will adopt a joint statement Monday.
At a dinner party Sunday evening, Japanese Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara talked with his South Korean counterpart Yoon Seong Kyu and China's vice minister for environmental protection Li Ganjie for the first time since he assumed the current post in December.
"It is delightful that we could hold the meeting despite strained ties between Japan and two other countries," Ishihara told reporters. "I hope I will be able to perform my duty as chair so we can make our cooperative stance on tackling the PM2.5 and other issues closer."
China sent the deputy in place of its environment minister, citing a busy schedule in coping with the deadly earthquake that hit the country's southwestern Sichuan Province last month.
The move, however, is seen by many political observers to be linked to strained bilateral ties between Beijing and Tokyo amid an ongoing territorial dispute and following recent visits to a controversial war-linked shrine by Japanese Cabinet ministers.