Tokyo: China has released the first
shipments to Japan of rare earth minerals used in high-tech
manufacturing since a diplomatic row between the countries in
Japanese trade and industry minister Akihiro Ohata
today said that two ships containing the minerals had left
China for Japan.
Importers in Japan say shipments have been halted
since September, held up in Chinese ports by increased
inspections and paperwork.
The export ban began after Japan arrested a Chinese
fishing boat captain after his ship collided with patrol boats
near disputed islands.
China currently produces 97 per cent of the global
supply of rare earth metals, which are crucial for the
manufacturing of high-tech products such as cell phones,
computer drives and hybrid cars.
Beijing has denied banning the exports.
Shaken by the threat of disruptions in supplies of
rare earths, Japan is considering becoming a recycling centre
for the metals and is establishing partnerships with other
countries in the region, including Australia, Vietnam and
Mongolia, to develop new mines.
The collision in the East China Sea plunged relations
between the countries to their lowest level in years, despite
Japan`s eventual release of the boat captain.
China temporarily cut off ministerial-level contacts
with Japan, repeatedly summoned Tokyo`s ambassador to
complain, and postponed talks on the joint development of
undersea natural gas fields.