• Kyodo

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Japan, China and South Korea will adopt an action plan Thursday for jointly tackling environmental issues over the next five years, even as trilateral cooperation in other areas remains elusive due to political constraints.

The action plan for 2015-2019 is set to be endorsed by the environment ministers from the three countries during their meeting in Shanghai, according to Japanese officials.

Environment Minister Yoshio Mochizuki and his Chinese and South Korean counterparts, Chen Jining and Yoon Seong Kyu, will discuss nine priority fields of cooperation decided to be included in the action plan, including air pollution, climate change and management of chemicals, the officials said.

The three ministers are also expected to release a joint communique at the end of the meeting, the officials said.

Environmental cooperation is one of the few realms not to have suffered a serious setback as Japan’s political ties with China and South Korea remain strained over territorial and wartime issues.

Despite the tensions, the three countries have managed to continue the high-level environmental meetings, which have been held annually since 1999, although China did not send its minister to the previous two gatherings.

China’s stance toward Japan has somewhat softened since November, when their leaders met in Beijing for the first time since they both rose to power in 2012. South Korean President Park Geun-hye, however, has refused to hold face-to-face talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe since taking office in 2013.

The environment ministers’ meeting took place a week after Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s talks, the second in the last five months, on the sidelines of a regional conference in Jakarta, during which they agreed to promote a range of exchanges to rebuild trust between the two countries.

As China’s rapid growth has come at the cost of grave pollution, environmental consequences of it have become far-reaching and they have increasingly become cross-border in nature.

China has become more serious about tackling its notorious choking smog in cities and other environmental problems in recent years and it does not hide its interest in learning from countries such as Japan, which struggled to overcome similar challenges during its years of economic development.

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