Honolulu: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today called on China, to clarify its policy on the export of exotic metals, key to the global high-tech industry.
Opening a two-week Asia-Pacific tour aimed at cementing ties with allies who are wary of Beijing`s increasing assertiveness, Clinton took on a primary point of friction between China and Japan.
She said recent Chinese restrictions on the sale of rare earth minerals served as a "wake-up call" for the industrialised world, including the United States and Europe, which has largely abandoned their production in favour of cheaper exports from China.
"I would welcome any clarification of their policy and hope that it means trade and commerce around these important materials will continue unabated and without any interference," she said at a news conference after meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara in Honolulu. China responded today that it "will not use rare earths as a bargaining tool.`
At a news conference in Beijing, Zhu Hongren, a spokesman for the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said, "Rather, on the basis of cooperation, development and a win-win outcome, we will have cooperation with other countries in the use of rare earths, because it is a nonrenewable energy resource."
Zhu did not answer a reporter`s question about when normal rare earths exports would resume.
Clinton and Maehara both said China`s stifling of the supply meant the international community would have to look for other sources of rare earths that are essential to producing high-tech devices such as cell phones, missiles and solar energy panels.
China produces 97 percent of the world`s supply, something Maehara said "was not appropriate." Even if the current situation is resolved, he said it was critical to diversify the production of rare earths.
"This served as a wake-up call (about) being so dependent on only one source," Clinton said, calling rare earths both "commercially and strategically" essential. "The entire world has to seek additional supplies in order to protect the important production needs that these materials serve."
Japan has been urging China to resume exports of rare earths. Japanese companies say Beijing has blocked shipments since Sept. 21, in possible retaliation for Tokyo`s arrest of a Chinese fishing boat captain near disputed islands in the East China Sea.