HANOI, Vietnam (AP) - Vietnam has chosen Japan as a partner to mine rare earth metals and develop nuclear power in the Communist country, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Sunday.
Kan made the comments to reporters after meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Tan Dung, in Hanoi and said it was a sign of the "strategic partnership between the two countries."
Japan earlier this month announced plans to begin mining in Vietnam for rare earth metals used in the manufacture of high-tech products such as laptops, cell phones and hybrid cars, in a bid to reduce its dependence on China, which produces some 97 percent of the world's supply.
China has blocked rare earths shipments to Japan following a diplomatic spat between the two countries over disputed islands in the East China Sea, after a collision of a Chinese fishing trawler with two Japanese patrol boats.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently called the export block a "wake-up call" for the world to find additional sources of rare earths.
Vietnam has plans to build eight nuclear power plants by 2030 to meet rising energy demand. Currently, hydropower contributes more than a third of the country's energy.
Kan confirmed that Japan would help Vietnam develop nuclear power.
Also Sunday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Minh Triet and witnessed the formal signing of a deal to build Vietnam's first nuclear power plant. The two countries agreed to the deal last year, and construction is to start in 2014 and be completed in 2020.
Russia's state atomic corporation Rosatom said in a statement that it will built two reactors at the plant with a total capacity of 2,400 megawatts.
Like Japan, Russia is anxious to gain a footing in Vietnam's fast-expanding nuclear power market.
Rosatom chief Sergey Kiriyenko told Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency in Hanoi that Moscow is negotiating with Vietnam to build two more reactors and is "aware of worthy competitors from other countries."
On Saturday, Vietnam hosted a summit of East Asian leaders, including Kan. Top officials from the U.S. and Russia also attended.