The BBC is reporting that Japan has reached an agreement with Vietnam
that will help provide a secure supply of rare earth minerals
, after China reportedly stopped exports to Japan during an ongoing territorial dispute last month.
China produces nearly all (97 percent, according to the GAO
) of the rare earth minerals
used around the world, minerals that are used in many advanced electronics including mobile phones, missiles, and key components of cleaner energy tech. Japanese companies are expected to gain exclusive exploration and mining rights in northwest Vietnam in exchange for technical assistance on nuclear reactors.
China’s reported export freeze on rare earths raised warning flags in the region as well as in Washington, where fears over exclusive supply of the crucial minerals have been growing for some time – particularly in the defense community. (Although Bloomberg reports a new Pentagon study says it’s not such a big deal after all.) Control over and access to resources has become an important concern in East Asian diplomacy, as population and consumption in the region rises. For more, check out The New Security Beat’s coverage of the many diplomatic fault lines at play between the lower Mekong countries, China, and the United States, rare earth minerals and green energy, and the conflict potential of future resource scarcity.
Sources: BBC, Bloomberg, Government Accountability Office, The New York Times, TechNewsDaily.
Image Credit: Adapted from “The Huc Bridge, Hanoi,” courtesy of flickr user -aw-.