"Rare earths are critical elements used across numerous major weapons systems the U.S. relies on for national security, including lasers, radar, sonar, night vision systems, missile guidance, jet engines, and even alloys for armoured vehicles". According to a Pentagon website, that program gives the us president "broad authority to ensure the timely availability of essential domestic industrial resources to support national defense and homeland security requirements through the use of highly tailored economic incentives".
An Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer needs 2500kg of rare earths for its construction. However, many plants were closed during the past few decades because of costs and environmental concerns, as well as competition from China.
FILE PHOTO: Molten rare earth metal Lanthanum is poured into a mold at Jinyuan Company's smelting workshop near the town of Damao in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, October 31, 2010.
"The politicians and policymakers have largely had deaf ears about it", he said.
One reason China is the global leader - it's been pulling rare earths out of the ground for a long time. And a total embargo would throw down the gauntlet to the entire industrialized world, he argued.
The paper also called on the Chinese government to intensify a "crackdown on the smuggling of rare earths to the U.S.".
The state-owned Global Times warned in an editorial that the "US will rue forcing China's hand on rare earths".
"The US side wants to use the products made by China's exported rare earths to counter and suppress China's development", the People's Daily declared earlier this week. "China may also take other countermeasures in the future", Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Chinese tabloid Global Times, wrote on his Twitter account on May 28. Xi's visit has been considered a veiled threat aimed at the United States. At present, some people from the USA side are indeed fantasizing about obtaining resources independently, but it's unarguable that the US depends highly on the global supply chain. Beijing accounted for 80 per cent of rare earth imports to Washington between 2014 and 2017. The export ban sent the prices for raw materials through the roof.
"This kind of deliberately provoking trade disputes is naked economic terrorism, economic chauvinism, economic bullying", Zhang said when asked about the trade war with the U.S. Demand for these elements has exploded over the last 20 years, and China is acutely aware of their strategic importance, declaring them a protected good in 1990 and imposing strict export limits.
"It is a potential friction point in our bilateral relationship", said Jeffrey Schott, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington-based think tank.
Beijing has yet to comment on the said assumptions, but the speculation is growing that China may pull the plug, thus targeting Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, each of which requires about 920 pounds of rare earth minerals, according to a 2013 report from the US Congressional Research Service. The Pentagon didn't explain details of the report but it said the document was tied to a federal program created to boost domestic production capabilities through economic incentives.
Likewise, President Donald Trump issued an executive order in late 2017 in an effort to boost critical mineral development, which includes rare earth metals. Other countries that supply rare earths to the USA include Australia, Estonia, France and Japan.
"The permitting process in the United States is so complex and so open to obstructions", he said. China's goal is to paint the U.S.as a "lawless actor" that disrupts economic growth, Kroeber said. It's the Pentagon's most expensive weapons system and the first fighter created to serve three branches of the United States military.
"So eventually, economically it makes no sense for a mine operator or a refiner to continue to do business in this country".
"The Chinese first are going to have to signal they will talk", he said.