March 31, 2015 / 1:58 AM / 3 years ago

Taiwan to apply to join China-backed AIIB investment bank

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

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan will submit an application to join the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) on Tuesday, despite historical animosity and a lack of formal diplomatic relations between the island and China.

In a statement released late on Monday, Taiwan presidential office spokesman Charles Chen said joining the AIIB will help Taiwan in its efforts at regional economic integration and raise the possibility of joining other multinational bodies.

It was not immediately known whether Beijing would accept Taiwan’s application to join the AIIB. The bank is seen as a significant setback to U.S. efforts to extend its influence in the Asia-Pacific region and balance China’s growing financial clout and assertiveness.

Most countries, including the United States, do not recognize Taiwan due to pressure from China. Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations, the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.

China set a Tuesday deadline to become a founding member of the AIIB, prompting a rush of nations including Russia, Australia, Denmark and the Netherlands to announce their intent to join. A total of 42 countries have applied, Taiwan’s statement said.

The United States has urged countries to think twice about joining the AIIB until it could show sufficient standards of governance and environmental and social safeguards.

China views Taiwan as a renegade province and has not ruled out the use of force to bring it under its control. However, since Taiwan’s current president Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008, enmity has declined considerably and the two sides have signed a number of trade and investment deals.

Reporting by Jeanny Kao and Michael Gold; Editing by Richard Pullin and Ian Geoghegan

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