China’s rare earth exports back on track

Kyodo

China has resumed procedures to export rare earth metals to Japan after the bilateral dispute over the Senkaku Islands reportedly halted shipments of the critical materials, trading house sources said Wednesday.

A Chinese mining company has restarted applications for exports and Chinese customs authorities have confirmed that cargo will be shipped once the procedures are completed, the sources said.

Separately, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said that China may have started trying to repair ties with Japan, but more must be done to reduce the bilateral tension.

“Currently, we are not in a win-win relationship. It is probably obvious to everyone,” the government’s top spokesman said at a news conference. “However, I presume that (China) has started making efforts to bring the situation back to zero (from negative).”

He also said China has to do more before organizing high-level talks.

“I have been saying that the ball is already in China’s court,” he said. “If high-level talks are necessary, China must first return the ball” to convince the Japanese public that Beijing has changed its recent hardline attitude.

Sengoku also said the government has no concrete information on new developments regarding exports of rare earth metals and has asked China to provide a real picture of the situation.

China denied banning exports in retaliation for the arrest of a Chinese fishermen near the disputed isles, but various companies have reportedly said they were pressured to halt shipments.

Japanese traders, for example, said last week that shipments of rare earth metals, which are used to make hybrid cars, mobile phones and other high-tech products, had been stopped, although the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Saturday there had been no order to suspend shipments.

On Sept. 22, trading sources in Beijing said exports of the materials had grown “stagnant,” and The New York Times reported that China had introduced a ban to pressure Japan to free the captain of the Chinese fishing vessel, who was detained following collisions with Japanese Coast Guard cutters Sept. 7 off the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.