China eyes rare earth minerals ban to scupper US defence industry
China is considering slapping an export ban on rare earth minerals that are vital components for US advanced weaponry, reports say.
Authorities in Beijing last month proposed draft controls on the production and export of 17 rare earth minerals in China, the Financial Times reports.
The Asian superpower controls about 80 per cent of world supply.
Chinese government officials had asked mining industry executives how badly companies in the US and Europe, including defence manufacturers, would be affected if China curtailed rare earth exports.
The advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is one of the US-manufactured defence projects reliant on rare earth minerals.
"The government wants to know if the US may have trouble making F-35 fighter jets if China imposes an export ban," a Chinese government adviser, who asked not to be identified, told the Financial Times.
Australia has ordered 72 of the warplanes, built by US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, at a cost of $125 million each.
A report by the US Congressional Research Service found that each F-35 required 417kg of rare-earth materials.
The move by China follows a bitter dispute between Washington and Beijing over access to advanced technology.
The former Trump administration attempted to make it harder for Chinese companies to import high-tech semiconductors.
The Biden administration has signalled that it would also follow that policy but would work more closely with allies.
Rare earth materials are also essential to the manufacture of smartphones, electric vehicles, wind turbines and other products.
The US Defence Department has become concerned about is reliance on China for the minerals.
It recently signed contracts with Australian and US mining companies to increase their onshore refining capacity.