Sun, Aug 19, 2007 - Page 3 News List

EPA minister meets US officials

INTERFERENCE Winston Dang said that almost every environment and energy official he met in Washington had been urged by China's embassy not to receive him

AGENCIES , WASHINGTON

Environmental Protection Agency Minister Winston Dang (陳重信) said in Washington on Friday that he had exchanged ideas with his US counterparts on climate change issues despite Beijing's repeated protests.

Dang visited several environment and energy officials in Washington after leading a delegation to attend an annual Taiwan-US meeting on environmental protection in Hawaii.

BEIJING PROTESTS

Dang told a press conference held at the National Press Club that almost every US official he met told him they had received a protest from the Chinese embassy.

Dang noted that environmental issues are global issues and said they have "little to do with politics," adding that Beijing should not try to block environmental cooperation.

Describing Dang's visit as "successful," Stanley Kao (高碩泰), the deputy Taiwanese representative to Washington, also confirmed at the news conference that his office had received calls from US State Department officials to inform them that China was lodging protests.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Reuters, Dang said that Taiwan had concerns about airborne mercury and arsenic pollution from China, and would like to offer clean-up expertise to Beijing. However, Beijing's refusal to cooperate with Taiwan prevented that, he said.

`GLOBAL PROBLEM'

Dang said that China's pressure on UN agencies and other international organizations to shun Taiwan left the nation few avenues for global cooperation on environmental issues.

"China has to understand that this is not only Taiwan's problem, but that it's a global problem," Dang said.

A high-altitude monitoring station on Jade Mountain (玉山) has detected dramatic increases the amount of mercury in the atmosphere as a result of coal burning and steel manufacturing in China, Dang said, adding that he was worried about arsenic as well.

"If mercury is in food, you can refuse to eat it, but you can't refuse to breathe. It's a terrible thing," he said in an interview in Washington following informal talks with the US Environmental Protection Agency.

PREVIOUS PROBLEMS

Taiwan got a painful taste of Chinese environmental woes last year.

"Not only did China send SARS to Taiwan in 2003, last year we suffered dust storms so bad we couldn't open our eyes," Dang said.

He was referring to the deadly respiratory disease SARS, that spread from China to its neighbors.

Taiwan received no help from the WHO until the end of the SARS outbreak because Beijing blocked any cooperation between the WHO and Taiwan.

APEC

Dang said Taiwan might find a voice in one of the few international groups in which it is able to participate, APEC, which will hold its annual summit in Sydney, Australia, early next month.

"Hopefully through this APEC platform, Taiwan can [develop] an interconnection with international organizations," he said.

Taiwan will put forth a proposal called "Green APEC Opportunities" to deal with pollution, encourage cleaner manufacturing and increase household recycling, he said.

NEW BURDENS

Air pollution from China has put new burdens on Taiwan's health care system as asthma and other respiratory problems become more common, he said, adding that Taiwan, which has cleaned up its pollution considerably, could help China tackle its environmental woes.

"In the 1960s and 1970s, Taiwan paid a heavy price in the environment, and they are walking the same path," Dang said.

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