Pentagon Seeks Funds to Reduce U.S. Reliance On China's Rare Earth Metals (excerpt)
(Source: Reuters; published May 29, 2019)
By Phil Stewart and Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON --- The U.S. Defense Department is seeking new federal funds to bolster domestic production of rare earth minerals and reduce dependence on China, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, amid mounting concern in Washington about Beijing’s role as a supplier.
The Pentagon’s request was outlined in a report that has been sent to the White House and briefed to Congress, said Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews, a Pentagon spokesman.
Rare earths are a group of 17 chemical elements used in both consumer products, from iPhones to electric car motors, and critical military applications including jet engines, satellites and lasers.
Rising tensions between the United States and China have sparked concerns that Beijing could use its dominant position as a supplier of rare earths for leverage in the trade war between the world’s top two economic powers.
Between 2004 and 2017, China accounted for 80% of U.S. rare earth imports. Few alternative suppliers have been able to compete with China, which is home to 37% of global rare earths reserves. (end of excerpt)
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Commentary: U.S. Risks Losing Rare Earth Supply In Trade War
(Source: Xinhua; posted May 29, 2019)
BEIJING --- Waging a trade war against China, the United States risks losing the supply of materials that are vital to sustaining its technological strength.
China produces a majority of the world's rare earths, chemical elements that have magnetic and luminescent properties and are used in a range of consumer products and electronics.
While rarely heard, the rare earth elements are the materials that help light up your smartphone, make X-rays possible and ensure the safe use of nuclear reactors.
As the world's biggest supplier of such materials, China has always been upholding the principles of openness, coordination and sharing in developing its rare earth industry.
While meeting domestic demands is a priority, China is willing to try its best to satisfy global demand for rare earths as long as they are used for legitimate purposes.
"We are happy to see that the rare earth resources and related materials can be used in making all kinds of advanced products that help better satisfy the demand for a good life of people from around the world," said an official with the National Development and Reform Commission.
However, if anyone wants to use imported rare earths against China, the Chinese people will not agree.
By making unilateral moves to contain technological development of other countries, the United States seems to have overlooked one fact: the international supply chain is so intertwined that no economy could thrive on its own.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, from 2014 to 2017 the United States imported 80 percent of its rare earth compounds and metals from China.
Along with the technological revolution and industrial evolution, rare earths are expected to be applied in more areas, and their strategic value will become more prominent, said the official.
China has reiterated its stand in promoting multilateralism and tried to avoid a trade war that hurts public interests.
But if necessary, China has plenty of cards to play.