The nominee to be the next US ambassador to Malaysia said yesterday he saw the potential for the United States to expand cooperation with the South-east Asian country in diversifying supply chains for rare earths and other critical minerals.
Edgard Kagan, a career diplomat who is currently the senior official for East Asia at the White House National Security Council, told his Senate confirmation hearing that developing new sources for critical minerals to ensure reliable supply chains was a very high priority for the Biden administration.
“The importance of working on these arrangements with countries where we have good relationships… is absolutely critical,” he said, adding: “I think that we have real potential to do that in countries like Malaysia.”
“I would want to work closely with the American private sector, with different parts of the US government, and with the Malaysian government to ensure that we’re able to continue expanding the areas of cooperation in this, support development of resources,” he said.
By these remarks is the prospective US Ambassador indicating that he plans to put pressure on the Malaysian government to reverse its policy on the Lynas ‘rare earth plant’ in Pahang in order to continue with the production of hazardous materials imported from Australia?
Permission to process these rare earths in Pahang was accompanied, under the kleptocrat Najib government, by a highly dubious $100 million contract to a royal owned company to dispose of the toxic waste – a job it was plainly unqualified to do.
Heaps of low level radio-active material have therefore lain around the site, forming a long-term health hazard for the people of the region and endangering the precious eco-systems of the water table.
The post-Najib reforming governments have ordered that this must stop and have politely given time for Lynas to alter its arrangements, despite the concerns for Malaysian people.
Naturally, the Australian company has pushed back because it built the plant in Malaysia owing to reluctance by local people in Australia to host the toxic materials in their own country.
However, the US ought not to add its pressure on the grounds of its hard won good relations with Malaysia. This rare earth is mined in AUSTRALIA, which is also an ally of the United States and a country equally concerned about the strategic value of these metals.
That is where the material ought to be kept and responsibly processed rather that having it transported thousands of miles to Malaysia where the company chosen to handle the material was selected on political rather than safety grounds.
If the US wish to maintain their good relations with countries like Malaysia (and not go back to neo-colonialist ways) then they need to respect Malaysian lives as much as they respect Australian lives and not expect a weaker country to act as a dustbin for wealthier economies like theirs.