China has blocked rare earth exports to Japan amid an intensifying row over the detention of a Chinese boat captain, trading houses told AFP Friday, after Beijing earlier denied reports it had done so.
“We heard from our officials in China that the shipping of rare earths (to Japan) was suspended on September 21,” a spokesman at Japanese trading house Sojitz in Tokyo told AFP.
Another trader from a different trading house who wished to remain anonymous said: “We heard from our Chinese trading partners that exports of rare earths to Japan are being stopped.”
He added: “On September 22, Chinese companies who have licences for exporting to Japan were gathered in Beijing by China’s commerce ministry. There were discussions of stopping (rare earth) exports to Japan.”
A Japanese trade ministry official told AFP that trading houses had reported a suspension of rare earth exports but added that the government was still in the process of confirming the information.
China’s commerce ministry on Thursday denied a report in the New York Times that cited unnamed industry sources as saying Beijing had blocked exports of rare earth minerals to Japan.
Rare earth minerals are essential for making components used in a variety of products including iPods, electric cars and guided missiles.