Geoffrey, there's quite a bit more to the story here.
At the Thorium Energy Alliance Conference in 2012 Jim Kennedy of ThREE Consulting presented an impassioned and convincing argument for reducing dependence on Chinese rare earth imports. Thorium, with one proton too many to qualify as a rare earth element, plays an important part, because virtually all commercial production of REs originated from mining the mineral monazite. As far back as 1900, monazite mines were a profitable source of the thorium used for mantels in gaslights.
Monazite mining began to disappear in the early 1980s due to classification changes instituted by the NRC and the IAEA which identified it as “source material” - the thorium therein could be used to breed U233, and it was therefore supposedly a proliferation risk. A more tenable reason was the recognition of abundant and cheap thorium as a threat to not only uranium's dominance as a nuclear fuel, but potentially fossil fuels' dominance of energy.
Some feel it has induced oil and coal interests to actively suppress development of domestic rare earths, and it doesn't take too much conspiratorial imagination to see the heavy hand of fossil fuel money behind Eugene Gholz's Rare Earth Elements and National Security. Here Gholz, Associate Professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas, and co-author of Protecting 'The Prize:' Oil in American Grand Strategy, dismisses fears about rare earth dependence as "just the newest entry in a long line of exaggerated fears and panics about leading economies’ access to raw materials."
There's now exactly one non-Chinese producer of rare earth elements and thorium, Lynas in Australia, which is hanging by a $191,000 annual profit thread. That's what the free world's supply depends upon, and in my opinion there's a good explanation for it.
Radioactive "source material" - and cheap, abundant, carbon-free fuel - at TEAC 5
Chinese acquisition of the world's rare earths/thorium supply chain