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China's Wen hits back at Japan in rare earths row

US wants G20 to ensure rare minerals trade
Washington (AFP) Oct 6, 2010 - The United States called Wednesday for the world's major economies to look at ways to ensure a free flow of rare minerals used in gadgets after Japan said China cut off shipments for political reasons. US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke praised the Asia's two largest economies for agreeing to talks next week and hoped "there will continue to be a free flow" of rare earths. "That's something that I think all the countries perhaps will have to address in the upcoming G20," Locke said, referring to the November summit in South Korea of 20 major economies. "We need to have that multinational dialogue, especially on some of these very, very rare metals that specific countries may have a greater abundance of," Locke said at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Locke said that rare metals were crucial for technological innovation, along with broader international trade. China is the main source of rare earths which are essential to everything from iPods to hybrid cars and eco-friendly light bulbs. Japanese industry reported that China cut off shipments of rare earths last month after a sharp deterioration in relations when Tokyo arrested the captain of a Chinese trawler near disputed islands. Japanese Trade Minister Akihiro Ohata has vowed to press China not to hold up shipments of the minerals and other commodities during the talks next week to be brokered by South Korea. China has denied it cut off shipments. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, said that Beijing "will not block the rare earth market."
by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) Oct 6, 2010
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao hit back at Japan Wednesday in a row about shipments of rare earth minerals, threatening fresh strains between the northeast Asian giants over a key high-tech resource.

"We will not block the rare earth market," Wen told an audience of business figures in Brussels ahead of a fractious summit with EU leaders marred by a dispute over the yuan and other differences.

Rare earths, of which China is currently the main world producer, are essential elements used in everything from iPods to hybrid cars and eco-friendly light bulbs.

"What we are pursuing is the sustainable development of rare earths, which is necessary to meet national needs -- and also the needs of the world," Wen said.

Japanese Trade Minister Akihiro Ohata said Tuesday that Tokyo will press China at talks next week to stop holding up shipments of the minerals and other commodities during talks brokered by South Korea.

"The government will strongly demand China rectify the situation," Ohata said."

Wen responded in Brussels that it was "necessary" to "manage and control" the rare earths market.

"We will not use (rare) earths as a bargaining tool but to ensure the development of the world," he said.

Rare earths, such as super-magnet dysprosium and red-glowing europium are vital components in hard-drives and computer screens, while the metals also make possible laser missile systems, wind turbines and solar panels.

The problems with Chinese exports to Japan -- which first arose last month during a bitter territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo -- have sparked concerns worldwide at security of supply.

Japan arrested a Chinese trawler near disputed East China Sea islands on September 8 and then kept its captain in detention before releasing him.

China reacted strongly, freezing high-level talks and cancelling civil exchange programmes, including a Japanese pop group's concerts in Shanghai and Chinese tourist packages to Japan.

The two sides have shown signs of bridge-building, as Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Wen met briefly and agreed to improve ties on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe summit in Brussels.

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