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Asia’s latest diplomatic flashpoint? Air pollution.


FUKUOKA, Japan — When the Chinese smog arrives, the medical masks come in fashion.


Every few months, this city of 1.5 million people in southern Japan, not far from mainland China, gets a dose of lung clogging courtesy of its neighbor.

Coal factories in the cities of Tianjin and Beijing, combined with the growing numbers of automobiles, pump out toxins that drift westward across the East China Sea. They hit Japan and, to a lesser extent, South Korea.

The most recent air pollution crisis came in February, when a whitish gray blanket of smog fell over Fukuoka. The city government put out an advisory on its early warning system — the first in Japan, started that month — urging everybody, and especially infants and the elderly, to stay indoors and wear face masks outside.


The air pollution problem has become so pervasive that it has joined the list of diplomatic issues on the table between three fractious nations: China, which produces much of it, and Japan and South Korea, on its receiving......"