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BEIJING (Kyodo) The environment ministers of China, Japan and South Korea have agreed to continue joint research and cooperation to curb the region’s sandstorms and air pollution, a Japanese government official said.

The agreement came Sunday at the 11th tripartite talks on the environment in Beijing, involving China’s Zhou Shengxian, Japan’s Tetsuo Saito and South Korea’s Lee Maa Nee.

According to the official, the ministers agreed to prioritize cooperation in monitoring and preventing sandstorms. It will include enhancing a sandstorm early warning system.

Springtime sandstorms originate in arid and semiarid areas of northwest China and Mongolia, sometimes blowing as far as Japan.

Degradation of land from overgrazing, deforestation and excessive cultivation has been blamed for making sandstorms more frequent and intense in recent years.

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