A Rare Monopoly

Beijing gave Washington and Tokyo a “wake-up call” according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Japan’s Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara. China currently controls the supply of nearly all the world’s rare-earth minerals, needed to build things like computer parts and hybrid cars. But China seems to have been using its resource monopoly as a policy tool, even though Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the minerals were not a “bargaining chip.” Tokyo says that Beijing delayed delivering the resources in response to Japan’s detention of a Chinese fishing boat captain. Clinton and Maehara noted after a meeting in Hawaii yesterday that countries need to work together to find other sources for these minerals. Today, Clinton is expected to give a speech about Washington’s dedication to the Asia-Pacific region.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs spent some time yesterday trying to calm the public’s fears about the arrest of a Pakistani American for plotting to bomb DC metro stations. He stressed that safety was never an issue because Farooque Ahmed was under close scrutiny by the FBI. The organization's director, Robert Mueller, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano both pointed out in speeches earlier in the week that homegrown terrorists are one of the central concerns of intelligence agencies.

At least one diplomatic push in Afghanistan has succeeded. Afghan President Hamid Karzai agreed to extend his deadline for the withdrawal of security contractors from the country. Some contractors may still be banned from operating in the country by the old mid-December deadline, but the rest will be able to stay in Afghanistan until at least February. Negotiations were going on for several days, and Karzai even got a call from Secretary Clinton. U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry said he was glad that development projects, many of which rely on private security firms for protection, would be able to continue for a bit longer.