The Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported on April 11 that Tokyo University professor Yasuhiro Kato and Waseda University professor Yutaro Takaya found 16 million tons of rare earth elements in the EEZ around Ogasawara Islands.
Rare earth elements are resources essential for a variety of products, ranging from mobile phones and semiconductors to hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles. 16 million tons is twice the previous estimated reserves and that amount of rare earth elements is what the entire world can use for at least hundreds of years.
China, which currently accounts for about 90% of the global rare earth element production, is using the elements it produces as weapons. For instance, China banned rare earth element export to Japan during the Senkaku Islands Dispute back in September 2010.
In South Korea, in the meantime, the Korea Resources Corporation built special warehouses for rare earth element storage in Gunsan in 2011 while acquiring 10% of a rare earth mine development project in South Africa. That year, the South Korean government planned to develop rare earth mines with North Korea, too. However, the next Park Geun-hye administration launched corruption investigations with regard to overseas resources development, and then rare earth element development projects disappeared.