Japan signaled cautious approval of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) on Friday and said for the first time that, if conditions were met, it could join the institution that the United States has warned against.
Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey said there was “a lot of merit” in the bank and the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported that Canberra could formally decide to sign up when the full cabinet meets on Monday.
Japan, Australia and the South Korea, all major U.S. allies, are the notable regional absentees from the AIIB. The United States, worried about China’s growing diplomatic clout, has questioned whether the AIIB will have sufficient standards of governance and environmental and social safeguards.
But after Britain broke ranks with Western nations and said earlier this month that it would join the AIIB, other major EU members have followed suit.
Australia now appears close to joining, although no formal decision has been made, and South Korea may be as well.
Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said Tokyo could consider joining the China-led bank if it could guarantee a credible mechanism for providing loans.
“We have been asking to ensure debt sustainability taking into account its impact on environment and society,” he told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
“We could (consider to participate) if these issues are guaranteed. There could be a chance that we would go inside and discuss. But so far we have not heard any responses.”
It was a surprising comment from Japan.
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