Japan says not bound by deadline to join AIIB, and not yet decided

Tue Mar 31, 2015 6:13am EDT
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By Tetsushi Kajimoto and Takashi Umekawa

TOKYO (Reuters) - As dozens of countries from Europe to the Middle East to Africa jump on the bandwagon of joining the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Japan is opting to stay out for now, with officials believing it can sign up later if its conditions are met.

Japanese officials have shrugged off the March 31 deadline set by China to become a founding member of the Beijing-based bank, and say they attach greater importance to conditions being met rather than when to join.

"It's not a matter of setting a deadline. Our stance remains unchanged that we must cautiously watch how (China) guarantees fair governance at the AIIB," a government source told Reuters.

"We have not ruled out the possibility of either joining or staying out," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.

Japan is caught between the misgivings about the AIIB expressed by its biggest ally, the United States, Tokyo's rivalry with Beijing, and the desire of some officials and businesses to partner with the rapid growth of China, the world's second-biggest economy.

Washington, worried about China's economic clout, has said it's still not clear whether the AIIB will uphold international standards of governance, and social and environmental safeguards.

The Japanese government source said unless China resolves Japan's concerns about the AIIB, it could be possible that Japan would stay out of the institution even when it is officially established.

China's Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said earlier this month that the AIIB would be set up by the end of the year. All parties will complete talks and sign the charter of the AIIB by mid-year, and by year-end will make the charter effective and officially establish the institution, he said.   Continued...

China's President Xi Jinping (front C) poses for photos with guests at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank launch ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing October 24, 2014.  REUTERS/Takaki Yajima