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S. Korea to make decision on AIIB participation in mid-March

The South Korean government will make a final decision later this month on joining the China-led regional bank to fund development projects in Asia, a government official said Sunday, amid growing tensions between the United States and China over the body's governance.

"We will decide whether to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a founding member within this month and inform China of the result," said the official who asked not to be named, citing the sensitivity of the issue. "I can't say which way the government will go as nothing has been decided yet."

China is planning to establish the AIIB to provide infrastructure funds to the Asia-Pacific region, and asked those who want to become founding members to express their desire by the end of this month.

Last week Britain announced its plan to join the AIIB, becoming the first Western country to join the China-backed investment bank, intended to counterbalance the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank led by the U.S.

Washington, which has opposed China's move, expressed strong displeasure with Britain's decision and raised concerns about the organization's decision-making process.

South Korea, which has a competitive edge in developing infrastructure over other Asian countries, has been walking a tightrope between China's request and U.S. aversion to AIIB membership.

Chinese President Xi Jinping asked his South Korean counterpart, Park Geun-hye, to participate in the AIIB at a summit meeting last year.

Nevertheless, South Korea, a strong ally of the U.S., has been reluctant to join the body along with Australia and Japan.

"It's an equation of higher degree," said the government official. "We will make a decision after collecting opinions from related government ministries and checking political situations in neighboring countries." (Yonhap)