Australia commits to rare earths supply to Japan

Australia promised on Tuesday to be a future long-tem supplier of rare earths to Japan, after China suspended shipments of the minerals to its neighbor.

After Japan’s Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara raised the issue during strategic and trade talks in Canberra, Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd hinted rare earths would likely form part of a free trade pact being negotiated with Tokyo.

"The Australian government understands the significance of rare earths globally. Australia stands ready to be a long term, secure, reliable supplier of rare earths to the Japanese economy," Rudd told reporters in a news conference with Maehara.

For the past two months, China had suspended shipments to Japan of rare earths, crucial minerals for many high-tech products, due to a spat over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Japan is the world’s fourth biggest user of the minerals.

Maehara, on his first bilateral visit overseas, said he was making Japanese access to rare earths, and security of resource supplies generally, one of his top foreign policy priorities.

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