TOKYO (AP) — Japan is not planning to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, its government spokesman said Tuesday, while Taiwan announced it would apply for membership, joining dozens of countries in signing up to an initiative opposed by Washington.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that Japan, the world's No. 3 economy, is still seeking answers about how the regional financing institution would be governed. "As of today, Japan will not join AIIB and a clear explanation has not been received from China," Suga said.
The U.S. has found itself isolated in its resistance to the bank, with more than 40 countries including major allies in Asia and Europe moving to join.
Washington says the Beijing-based regional bank should work in partnership with existing institutions such as the Asian Development Bank, which by convention is headed by a Japanese official, and the U.S.-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund. It contends the bank might extend credit without adequate environmental, labor and social safeguards.
Beijing set a March 31 deadline for founding members to express interest in joining the AIIB. Taiwan's Finance Ministry issued a notice Tuesday saying it was applying to join, following earlier comments by leaders in favor of the idea.
China claims Taiwan, a self-governing island, as part of its territory and has vowed to respond to any formal independence declaration with force, but the two sides have extensive economic and trade ties.
It is unclear whether China would accept Taiwan's membership in the regional bank, though its leaders have said it is open to all countries.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Taiwan's application should respect China's requirement that the island not be identified as a separate country. In other instances, such as sports events and international gatherings, Taiwan is often identified as "Chinese, Taipei" to pre-empt complaints from China.
Hua said applications from 30 countries to join the infrastructure bank had been approved and still more had only recently applied. The total number of founding members will be confirmed on April 15, she said.
"On Japan, we said all are welcome to join, but we also respect their decisions on whether or not to join, or when to join," Hua said.
In Tokyo, Suga did not say Japan would never consider joining the bank. Recently, Finance Minister Taro Aso indicated it was a possibility, but later backpedalled on the issue. Japanese media reports Tuesday said the ruling Liberal Democratic Party was still considering its stance.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told party leaders, "There is no need to participate hastily," Kyodo News Service reported. He indicated Japan was siding with its powerful ally the U.S. on the issue, adding that "The United States now knows that Japan is trustworthy."
Suga denied reports Japan was seeking more time to decide on the issue.
"We want to ensure there is clear governance," he said. "We want to make sure no other lenders would be damaged."
Zhao Liang in Beijing contributed to this report.