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Report: China makes veiled threat of using rare earths as trade war weapon

China's state planning agency issued a statement that is seen as a veiled threat that the country could restrict the export of its rare earth minerals amid mounting trade tensions with the U.S., Chinese publication Global Times reported May 28.

China is considered the largest producer of rare earths, which are metals with various technological applications.

"If any country wants to use products made of China's rare earth exports to contain China's development, the Chinese people would not be happy with that," said a spokesperson for the National Development and Reform Commission, according to Global Times.

The U.S. recently blacklisted Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. citing perceived threats to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests, but later scaled back the restrictions on Huawei.

The publication's editor-in-chief said on Twitter that China is "seriously considering" restricting rare earth exports to the U.S., amid speculation that China could ban rare earth element exports to the U.S., among other steps.

This comes after President Xi Jinping reportedly visited a Chinese firm specializing in rare earth magnetic materials and called for increased innovation in the sector.

Washington and Beijing's trade dispute escalated earlier in May with another round of tit-for-tat tariffs. President Donald Trump warned May 27 that tariffs imposed on Chinese imports could go up again, adding that the U.S. is "not ready" to make a trade deal with China amid stalled negotiations between the two countries.