India, Japan co-operate against Chinese rare earths monopoly

In a “Comment” article posted by India’s Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses yesterday, we are told by author Ajey Lele that Japan and India are finding common ground in the need to co-operate with each other to counter-act China’s near-monopoly on “rare earth elements” (REE’s).  Specifically, Japan finds its electronics industry and sovereignty threatened by China, and India is the second-largest producer of REE’s and has a history of enmity and military conflict with China.

As Lele puts it: “China presently controls almost 97 per cent of the world’s REE market and has developed a monopolistic hold on it. Japan is the world’s largest importer of REE, mainly because of its major industrial base in electronics and the consequent demand for a significant amount of REE… For sometime now China has been found linking exports of REEs to Japan with territorial disputes. Naturally, Japan has been on the lookout for alternate supply chains.”

“The rare-earth resources in Afghanistan (Helmand province) are estimated to be one million tonnes; and, particularly for India, engagement in Afghanistan has considerable strategic significance too.”

The Helmand ‘rare earth’ deposits have to be of considerable interest to the United States as well.  REE’s are critical for components in ICBMs and enable a number of other strategic requirements.  Thus, in a very real sense, China can have an affect the number of state-of-the-art ICBM’s the United States can possess.  That might not be critical now, but it will be in the long term, particularly if advances in rocket technology oblige the U.S. to re-work and up-date its entire nuclear deterrent.

The Chinese went to immense efforts to obtain their monopoly, and are using it to maximum strategic advantage.  The sooner their stranglehold over these vital resources can be broken, the better.

Jeff Goodall.

See “India-Japan Join Hands to Challenge China’s Rare Earth Monopoly” here.

See the “Rare Earth Metals Crisis” category here, (seven items).