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March 27, 2017

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China gives US assurances over rare earth minerals

SANYA, China--China told the United States on Saturday it would not withhold rare earth minerals but the two nations did not appear to make headway on disputes over North Korea and regional territorial claims.

China's top diplomat, State Counsellor Dai Bingguo, and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi offered reassurances about the minerals used in products from iPhones to superconductors in separate meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

After meeting Yang at a regional summit in Hanoi, Clinton said she was pleased by the Chinese stance on the minerals but said the world still needed to find other suppliers.

She also urged China and Japan to cool fresh tension over rival territorial claims in the East China Sea and offered to hold three-way talks, a proposal unlikely to be embraced by an increasingly assertive Beijing.

She then met Dai, who outranks Yang in the ruling Communist Party hierarchy, on the southern island of Hainan, where a U.S. spy plane made an emergency landing after colliding with a Chinese fighter in 2001 and its crew was held for 11 days.

The incident on Hainan — also a base for China's expanding navy, including a planned new generation of submarines said to be capable of carrying nuclear missiles — illustrates the growing friction between the two nations.

U.S. Wants

'Temperature to Go Down'

The United States has been uncomfortable about China's decision to slash rare earth export quotas generally and to cut shipments to Japan, with which it is embroiled in a territorial dispute over islands they both claim in the East China Sea.

While Chinese officials have said they will not exploit the high-tech ores used in lasers, superconductors, computers and other electronics for leverage, prices have spiked and firms are rushing to develop sources outside China.

"Minister Yang clarified China has no intention of withholding these minerals from the market," Clinton told a news conference in Hanoi after meeting Yang.

"Although we are pleased by the clarification we have received from the Chinese government, we still think that the world as a whole needs to find alternatives," she added.

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