Japan, Mongolia to jointly exploit rare earths

Japan, Mongolia to jointly exploit rare earths

Tokyo: Japan on Friday agreed with Mongolia to push for joint exploitation of rare earth minerals in the central Asian country amid concerns about a Chinese export freeze of the key minerals, officials said.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj, who is on a five-day visit to Japan, held talks and issued a joint statement on their “strategic partnership."

“The Mongolian side stated that Japan’s cooperation in developing mineral resources such as rare earths ... in Mongolia is the most important," the statement said.

Resource-rich Mongolia promised to “positively" accept Japanese companies in developing minerals in the country, the statement said.

“Japan welcomes the Mongolian stance," it said. “The two sides agreed that building mutually beneficial relations in Mongolian mineral development should meet the two countries’ national interest."

Japan is searching for new sources of rare earth minerals - key elements for digital products such as cellphones, flat-screen TVs and hybrid cars - after China was accused of reducing global shipments.

On Friday, Japan reported signs of improvement in the pace of Chinese exports of rare earth minerals, nearly two months after it said shipments were being stalled amid a bitter territorial row.

“We know that Japan has very strong interests in rare earth minerals," Elbegdorj said earlier in the day. “We would like to develop the resources jointly with Japan, using its high-level technologies."

But the leader of Mongolia, which is located between China and Russia, also said it is “important for the country’s diplomatic balance to invite economic investments from a third country."

In the joint statement, the two leaders also agreed to “speed up" preparation for the launch of negotiations on their free-trade deal early next year.