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By Tetsushi Kajimoto
TOKYO, March 27 (Reuters) - Japan remains cautious about joining the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Finance Minister Taro Aso said on Friday, as a March 31 deadline draws near for becoming a founding member.
Japan is in close contact with key ally the United States about the Beijing-based institute, and has yet to receive any response from China over concerns it has expressed about the AIIB, Aso told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
“What is important is not the date but whether we can see what we have been asking (China) guaranteed,” Aso said.
The AIIB has been seen as a challenge to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, and a significant setback to U.S. efforts to extend its influence in the Asia Pacific region to balance China’s growing financial clout and assertiveness.
Aso reiterated Japan’s concerns relating to fair governance at the AIIB, establishment of the board of directors, debt sustainability and respect for social and environmental issues.
“Unless (China) clarifies these matters, which are not clear at all, Japan remains cautious,” he said.
Aso declined to comment on South Korea’s decision on Thursday to seek to be a founding member of the AIIB, the latest key U.S. ally to join the China-led institution despite Washington’s misgivings.
“I don’t think it would affect relations (between the two countries),” he added.
Twenty-one countries initially signed up as founding members of the bank and six others later joined. South Korea and six other countries have yet to be confirmed as founding members.
The United States had warned against the new institution but its European allies Britain, France, Germany and Italy announced this month they would join the bank, leading the Obama administration to reassess its stance. (Editing by Richard Pullin)