China halts rare earth exports to Japan

China has halted exports to Japan of rare earth elements — which are crucial for advanced manufacturing — trading company officials said on Friday amid escalating tensions between the rival Asian powers over a territorial dispute.

By (AP)

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Published: Fri 24 Sep 2010, 11:32 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 9:30 AM

Japan imports 50 percent of China’s rare earth shipments. Rare earth are metallic elements crucial for superconductors, computers, hybrid electric cars and other high-tech products.

The two trading company officials said the shipments were suspended on Tuesday.

“We are told that only Japan-bound shipments were suspended. The Chinese side did not give any reasons for the suspension,” said an official at a major Japanese trading house.

Another trading house official also said China’s rare earth exports to Japan were halted on Tuesday. “We don’t know when the exports will resume,” he said.

The company officials declined to be named as they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Japan’s trade minister, Akihiro Ohata, said he has “information” that China’s exports to some Japanese trading houses have been stopped. But the minister said China’s government has not informed Tokyo of such a move.

Asked whether China’s export suspension was linked to the territorial dispute, the minister said: “We are checking facts.”

China and Japan have locked horns over the sovereignty of small islands in the East China Sea. Ever-present anti-Japanese sentiments in China intensified following Tokyo’s arrest of a Chinese fishing boat captain in early September and his ensuing detention.

The captain was arrested after his boat collided with two Japanese coast guard vessels near the disputed islands. China’s Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday threatened action against Japan if it does not immediately release the captain.

Japan extended the captain’s detention until Sept. 29 and China responded by suspending high-level contacts. Japanese prosecutors will next Wednesday decide whether to bring legal action against him.

While voicing concern over China’s export suspension, one Japanese trading house official said China’s 30,000 ton global export quota of rare earths is expected to expire at the end of September.

On Thursday, China’s Trade Ministry denied reports that Beijing is tightening curbs on exports of rare earths to Japan.

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