Potential for trade disputes is raising over China’s export quotas of rare earth minerals crucial for manufacturing key electronic parts. China said it would reduce export quotas of rare earth minerals by 35 percent for the year 2011. The US said last week that it would file a case at WTO. Electronics manufacturers are heavily dependent on China’s exports of rare earths, as it owns major part of world’s rare earths reserves. China is estimated to contain almost 90 to 97 percent of world’s reserves of those minerals.
Rare earth minerals are a group of 17 chemically similar elements that include scandium, yttrium and fifteen lanthanides. Elements such as neodymium, cerium and lanthanum are called lanthanides. These elements collectively occupy a close area in the periodic table. These are used for making many electronic goods such as smart phones, monitors of TVs and PCs, hard discs of laptops, condensers, magnets in batteries of hybrid cars and headphones of Apple iPods. It is almost impossible to imagine a world without these electronic goods nowadays.
China has been cutting export quotas of rare earths for last few years, which has become a controversial issue in world trade. Previously China said it was cutting down exports to meet domestic demand. China is also telling that the companies involved in mining and export of rare earths are causing enormous environmental damage. China wants to control excessive mining that became severe especially in Southern China a spokesperson of the Chinese commerce ministry is quoted as saying by BBC news.
North Korea restrained itself from retaliating South Korea’s life-fire military drill that went on as planned in Yeonpyeong Island, with a small contingent of the US personnel helping the drill. North Korea said the world would now understand who the true champion of peace was and who the real provocateur of a war was.
After the drill, China reiterated both sides to observe restraint and called to prefer dialogue when problem arises. Russia also urged both sides to restrain from provocation as reported by BBC News.
Meanwhile, UN Security Council talks ended without a deal on the weekend, reportedly after China refused to agree to a statement critical of its ally, the North. The US has backed the South’s right to carry out the exercises. Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico is in North Korea as an unofficial envoy for the US to soften the atmosphere. CNN reported that northern officials told Mr Richardson they would allow UN nuclear inspectors back into the country, but there has been no official comment.
Japan revealed its intentions to make substantial changes to its defence policies on the pretext of China’s increasing military might and North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Japan has maritime border with China. Japan’s new national defence policy has acquired importance in the wake of recent rise of tensions between China and Japan when a Chinese trawler hit a Japanese petrol boars near disputed chain coral islands on which both countries have ownership claims.
China has been strengthening its military utilising its trade surplus and foreign currency reserves due to which its neighbours such as India with which it has border disputes, Japan with which it has disputes on ownership over coral islands in South China Sea, and Taiwan on which it has ownership claim have rising concerns. The US is also worried with China’s military build-up as it feels China is threatening the US’ interests in South Asia and East Asia regions. The secretary of state for the US Ms Hillary Clinton expressed openly her concerns that China was ascertaining its domination in the region.
Recently, the US conducted military drill with South Korea in Yellow Sea after North Korea fired artillery shells on a disputed South Korea’s island near maritime border. Though, the US said the military drills were part of regular exercises, its main aim was to issue veiled warning to Chinese military, which has been ascertaining its position in the region. The US accused China for not reigning in North Korea’s behaviour during recent tensions in Korean peninsula. It has 50,000 troops stationed in a Japanese island Okinawa and 28,500 troops in South Korea.
The US is worried over increasing influence of China in Africa. China has been investing in Africa for minerals and other resources keeping its own resources untouched. Wikileaks released a cable yesterday on November 9, which revealed how Shell oil company infiltrated into Nigerian government and how US is worried about growing influence of China in Africa. The US ambassador is concerned that China will soon develop strategic relations such as military training and communications development.
A February cables quotes a senior US official in Nigeria’s main city, Lagos, describing China as "aggressive and pernicious with no morals". US diplomatic cables sent from Africa also reveal Shell oil company’s claims that it infiltrated Nigerian ministries. The cable quotes Johnnie Carson, US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, who had been meeting oil company representatives in Lagos.
Carson says China is in Africa for its own gains. He also opines that China is in Africa for securing votes in United Nations from African countries. Carson’s opinion is that the US is working in Africa to secure democracy and capitalism where as China has authoritarian capitalism. He criticised China for dealing with Mugabe’s Zimbabwe and Bashir’s Sudan.
Another US cable talks about China’s military and intelligence support for the government of Kenya. A Chinese enterprise is said to have won a contract to supply telephone-monitoring equipment to Kenya after bribes were paid while on a trip to China. Its influence in Kenya is said to have grown rapidly, with Chinese involvement in a host of infrastructure projects as well as collaboration with Kenya’s National Security and Intelligence Service.
The secret cables also say that Shell’s top executive in Nigeria at the time, Ann Pickard, told US diplomats that Shell Oil Company has good access to government information. A cable dated 20 October 2009 reveals a conversation Ms Pickard had with the then US ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Renee Sanders.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted the director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service as saying that there was a high possibility that the North Korea would make another attack, BBC reported. South Korea is planning another round military drill with the US in this month.
Four people were killed and 18 were injured when North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells on November 23 onto the South Korean island “Yeonpyeong” near maritime boarder of the two Koreas. North Korea said South Korea fired first. South Korea said it fired westward but not northward.
AFP was quoted as reporting by BBC News that China has blocked a formal censure of North Korea in the United Nations for shelling South Korea’s island, which 40 miles away from South Korea but only 7 miles away from North Korea. The news comes at a time when it is revealed through ‘wikileaks’ new set of revelations that China is frustrated with North Korea’s behaviour of acting like a spoiled child to attract the US’ attention by carrying out missile tests in April 2009.
BBC reports quoting unconfirmed reports that Chinese law maker Dai Bingguo was invited to Pyongyang for discussions. Also, an aide to North Korea leader Kim-Jong-Ill was invited to Beijing. China called for immediate resumption of six party talks to diffuse the tension developed after two Koreas exchanged fire few days back. North Korea warned over joint military drill by the US and South Korea that it would respond second time and even third time if South Korean warmongers continued to provoke by prolonging the joint military drill. China also expressed its anger over joint military drill.
Meanwhile, South Korea and the US have decided to continue their joint military drill after a few days gap. The next drill may take place after a few days in December. The present exercises will end on Wednesday, December 01. Separately, South Korea is planning what it calls routine week-long naval live-fire exercises from 29 sites around the country. These exercises will last for several weeks.
China is frustrated with North Korea’s attitude, Wikileaks third despatch reveals. One of the cables released on Monday says, China’s Vice Foreign Minister, He Yafei, told the US charge d’affaires in Beijing that North Korea was behaving like a "spoiled child" to get Washington’s attention in April 2009 by carrying out missile tests. Another cable in September 2009 says Mr He Yafei downplayed the visit of China’s premier Wen Jiabao to Pyongyong saying US deputy secretary of state Mr James Steinberg, “We may not like them… (But) they are a neighbour.” He also said Wen would push for denuclearisation and a return to talks.
Another cable reveals a discussion in February 2010 between former South Korean vice foreign minister Chun Yung-Woo and the US ambassador to Seoul Kathleen Stephens. The minister was quoted as saying that the new younger generation in China would not regard North Korea as a reliable ally and they would not risk another war in Korean peninsula. Ms Stephens added, "The PRC would be comfortable with a reunified Korea controlled by Seoul and anchored to the United States in a ‘benign alliance’ – as long as Korea was not hostile towards China."
Six party talks to defuse the nuclear ambitions of North Korea were stalled in April 2009 after North Korea test fired missiles. The US and South Korea say talks cannot be resumed until North Korea makes a genuine offer on stalling its nuclear tests.