Ten­sions be­tween China and Ja­pan rise

Los Angeles Times - - Latextra - John M. Glionna re­port­ing from seoul David Pierson re­port­ing from bei­jing

A day af­ter China’s premier warned that his nation would pun­ish Ja­pan if it did not re­lease a de­tained Chi­nese fish­ing boat cap­tain, Bei­jing on Thurs­day cut off ex­ports of min­er­als to Ja­pan that are used in such prod­ucts as hy­brid cars, ac­cord­ing to a me­dia re­port that was later de­nied by Chi­nese of­fi­cials.

In re­cent days, Chi­nese of­fi­cials have raised con­tin­u­ing alarm over Ja­pan’s hold­ing of the trawler cap­tain, whose boat col­lided two weeks ago with Ja­panese coast guard ves­sels near a chain of is­lands in the East China Sea that are claimed

by both na­tions.

“If Ja­pan clings to its course, China will take fur­ther ac­tion,” Chi­nese Premier Wen Ji­abao said in a speech to the Chi­nese Amer­i­can com­mu­nity in New York on Tues­day. He added that Tokyo “bears full re­spon­si­bil­ity for the sit­u­a­tion, and it will bear all con­se­quences.”

Wen’s com­ments were the first by a Chi­nese leader on the con­tro­versy.

As Ja­pan re­port­edly pre­pares to put the cap­tain on trial, Bei­jing has re­acted an­grily, this week sus­pend­ing min­is­te­rial-level con­tacts with Tokyo. And Chi­nese of­fi­cials said Wen would not meet with Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Naoto Kan dur­ing U.N. meet­ings in New York this week.

Over the week­end, pro­test­ers in Bei­jing ral­lied out­side the Ja­panese Em­bassy and marched to the For­eign Min­istry to protest the cap­tain’s pro­longed de­ten­tion.

As ten­sions wors­ened, a re­port in the New York Times on Thurs­day said Chi­nese cus­toms of­fi­cials will pre­vent all ship­ments to Ja­pan of so-called rare earth el­e­ments used in a wide range of high-technology prod­ucts, in­clud­ing hy­brid cars, wind tur­bines and guided mis­siles.

China de­nied Thurs­day that it had banned ex­ports of rare earth min­er­als to Ja­pan.

“China does not have a trade em­bargo on rare earth ex­ports to Ja­pan,” China’s Min­istry of For­eign Trade and Eco­nom­ics Co­op­er­a­tion spokesman Chen Rongkai told Bloomberg news agency.

If the news re­port proves true, the move would ap­pear to be aimed at Ja­pan’s al­ready ail­ing econ­omy.

In the past, China has been ac­cused of lim­it­ing rare earth ex­ports to boost global prices. Chi­nese of­fi­cials have said lim­its were nec­es­sary to pro­tect the nation’s en­vi­ron­ment.

The Ja­panese me­dia have re­ported in re­cent weeks that China has re­peat­edly re­jected Ja­pan’s re­quests for Bei­jing to con­sider lift­ing its ex­port con­trols on rare earth ma­te­rial.

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