James Stavridis is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former supreme allied commander of NATO, and dean emeritus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
You could be forgiven if you are confused about what’s going on with rare-earth elements. On the one hand, news reports indicate that China may increase production quotas of the minerals this quarter as a goodwill gesture to the Joe Biden administration.
But other sources say that China may ultimately ban the export of the rare earths altogether on “security concerns.” What’s really going on here?
There are 17 elements considered rare earths — lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, lutetium, scandium and yttrium — and while many aren’t actually rare in terms of global deposits, extracting them is difficult and expensive.
They are used across high-tech manufacturing, including smartphones, fighter aircraft and components in virtually all advanced electronics. Of particular note, they are essential to many of the clean-energy technologies expected to come online in this decade.
I began to focus on rare-earth elements when I commanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s presence in Afghanistan, known as the International Security Assistance Force.
For the rest of this article: https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-03-04/u-s-needs-a-strong-defense-against-china-s-rare-earth-weapon