Japan and South Korea are big time competitors, and should China reduce exports again to one or both of them, that nation would suffer without a prepared backup plan for non-China supply in place and ready to go.
The Japanese govt has the option of talking to GWMG, South Africa, or more likely both. If Japan wants secure supply chain REE's, outside China, it needs to talk to GWMG, but for the best and soonest early production volume and realistic expansion plans, it has to have cooperation and understanding with South Africa for permit and financing purposes. Aichi Steel already has on file a Letter of Intent to buy up to 50% of it's needed alloys from LCM. If they want that supply sooner rather than later, it would behoove them to have made sure that South Africa would not have anything pending that would cause further delays. By telling S.A. that they would like to finance(just for example) the projects of GWMG in return for dedicated offtake of product, they would be telling S.A. that the jobs and revenues due them would be soon forthcoming if GW were to have a smooth regulatory path to production.
It is not that Japan would need permission from S.A. but simply an understanding that there would be no known roadblocks or bureaucratic paperwork or other delays.
Japan and South Africa talking about getting Steenkampskraal and Vredendal into production would very definitely have something in it for us if the talks were successful and to those two nation's benefit. The third beneficiary, most likely would be GWMG and it's stockholders.