China proposes cooperation with Mongolia on seasonal dust storms

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April 8 (UPI) — China said it proposed a joint response on seasonal dust storms and other environmental issues with Mongolia, less than a month after a thick orange haze choked cities like Beijing in northern China.

In a phone call with Mongolian Prime Minister Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene on Wednesday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China seeks to “maintain strategic communication with Mongolia and deepen practical cooperation” with its neighbor, Xinhua news agency reported Thursday.

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Li also said “no borders” exist for issues related to the environment.

“China wishes to cooperate and respond jointly to challenges in the areas of environmental protection and the prevention of desertification,” Li said, according to Beijing’s foreign ministry.

The Mongolian prime minister reportedly said his country “supports regional economic cooperation and green development” while “strengthening the overall partnership.”

China has claimed the dust originates from outside its borders, despite satellite imagery that indicates the pollution spreads from Chinese territory.

Last month, NASA published satellite data showing the most recent storm originating from Taklamakan Desert in northwest China.

“From the Taklamakan, the dust moved eastward for thousands of kilometers,” the U.S. space agency said.

Beijing has denied that it is not doing enough to curb pollution. In March, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said countries like South Korea should “look at the matter in a science-based and constructive manner” after Korean analysts said there is evidence the seasons dust travels to the peninsula from northern and northeast China.

Seasonal dust storms begin in China, and then appear in Korea and parts of Japan, Greenpeace said last month.

The environmental NGO said the long-term deforestation and soil erosion in Mongolia also have contributed to serious air pollution, and sandstorms originate from both Mongolia and China.

Chinese authorities canceled hundreds of flights and schools suspended classes last month.