China says welcomes US, Japan to join in new infrastructure bank

BEIJING, June 30 Mon Jun 30, 2014 5:28am EDT

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BEIJING, June 30 (Reuters) - China would welcome the participation of the United States, Japan and European countries to help set up a new multilateral bank to fund infrastructure projects in Asia, the country's finance minister was quoted as saying on Monday.

Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said China would likely have a 50 percent stake in the the planned Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank bank, and even if it does not it would be the largest shareholder.

The bank aims to have a capital of $50 billion, paid for by its members, and Lou said a memorandum of understanding is expected to be signed in the autumn.

China's President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang first announced plans for the bank during visits to southeast Asian countries in October.

Lou said that China had held numerous consultations with unnamed Asian countries about the new bank.

"At the same time, China has been in contact with Japan, the United States and relevant European countries, and welcomes them to participate in the setting up of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank," the ministry quoted Lou as saying on Sunday.

He did not give details of those talks.

Lou said he expected the bank would cooperate with the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

China is involved in an increasingly ugly territorial spats with some Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, over parts of the South China Sea, worrying many capitals in the region about Beijing's intentions.

China is also involved in a territorial dispute with Japan and constantly criticises Tokyo for what it sees as Japan's failure to properly atone for its wartime past. Ties with the United States are also strained over everything from trade to human rights.

However, China has also tried reassuring Southeast Asia that its rise will only bring economic benefits to the region. China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) already have a free trade agreement, for example.

Lou said the new bank should neither be politicised nor "become a game between countries". (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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