Foreign Affairs reports:
Top of the Agenda: U.S. Will Address Rare Earths at Asia Summit
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she will urge China to clarify its policy (WSJ) on the export of rare-earth minerals this week at a regional Asia summit amid concerns China could use the exports as a political tool. China’s recent restrictions on the commercial inputs–used to produce computers and other electronic parts–have raised alarm about shortages of the materials in Japan, the United States, and the EU. China controls roughly 97 percent of the supply of rare earths. It announced curbs on the minerals’ export quotas in July amid rising tensions between China and Japan over islands jointly claimed by the two countries. A spokesman for China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said Thursday China would not use (Reuters) rare earths as a bargaining chip. “Instead, we hope to cooperate with other countries in the use of rare earths on the basis of win-win outcomes and jointly protecting this unrenewable resource,” he said. But a recent article published by China’s ministry of commerce urged China to stand strong (Telegraph) in the “rare earth wars” and resist calls from the “big powers” to relax quota restrictions. The issue is expected to feature prominently at next month’s G20 leader’s summit, but Japanese media reported that China already cancelled a meeting of trade ministers from China, Japan, and South Korea in order to avoid the issue.
In the China Post, Frank Ching says the recent rise in Sino-Japan tensions has pushed Japan closer to the United States and strengthened their security alliance.
In the New York Times, Paul Krugman says China’s restriction of rare earths shows its government is “dangerously trigger-happy, willing to wage economic warfare on the slightest provocation.”
On CFR’s Asia Unbound blog, Elizabeth Economy writes the official reason China has severely capped rare-earths exports is concern about its environment and its own future supply. “It estimates that if it doesn’t take action, it won’t have any rare earths left in twenty years,” she says.