China has halted exports to Japan of rare earth elements — which are crucial for advanced manufacturing — trading company officials said Friday amid tensions between the rival Asian powers over a territorial dispute.

Japan imports 50 percent of China's rare earth shipments. Rare earth are metallic elements crucial for manufacturing superconductors, computers, hybrid electric cars and other high-tech products.

The two trading company officials said the shipments were suspended on Tuesday. Companies using the rare metals are believed to have stockpiles that could last several months.

"We are told that only Japan-bound shipments were suspended. The Chinese side did not give any reasons for the suspension," said an official at a major Japanese trading house.

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