Japan and the United States are considering convening separate international environmental meetings on water and energy problems in the leadup to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, government sources said Friday.

The sources said the meetings will be held in the summer either in Japan or in the U.S., although details, such as specific dates and venues, have yet to be worked out.

In addition to the meetings on water and energy problems, the two countries plan to jointly launch a still-undetermined project on health care in developing countries, also during the summer, the sources said.

The sources said the meetings are being planned as part of efforts to implement an agreement reached in Tokyo at the beginning of April between Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky and Japanese officials including Environment Minister Hiroshi Oki and Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi.

Despite sharp differences over the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global warming, the U.S. and Japanese officials agreed at the time to launch joint environmental projects ahead of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which is to be held from late August through early September in Johannesburg.

World leaders, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, are expected to attend the conference.

According to the sources, the U.S. places particular importance on ensuring the availability of clean water, especially in developing countries.

During a recent tour of African countries, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill stressed the importance of addressing an increasingly acute shortage of clean drinking water in developing countries amid continuing population growth.

Japan also gives the water issue high priority, the sources said. Japan will host an international summit on water problems — formally called the Third World Water Forum — in March.

In a separate development, Japan and the U.S. are expected to cooperate in a forest preservation project in Indonesia, the sources said. The project, currently being drafted between Tokyo and Jakarta, will be formally announced at the Johannesburg conference.

Although the administration of President George W. Bush withdrew from the Kyoto protocol, Japan and the 15-nation European Union recently ratified the landmark document, which was adopted at the third Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP3, in Kyoto in 1997.

The Kyoto protocol sets legally binding targets for industrialized countries to slash their emissions of carbon dioxide and several other greenhouse gases widely blamed for global warming. The protocol will be put in place if it is ratified by Russia.

The Johannesburg conference, which will host discussions on measures to preserve the environment and fight poverty in developing countries, comes a decade after the so-called Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted at the Rio de Janeiro conference.

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