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China awaits AIIB decisions by S. Korea, Japan, Australia

China is awaiting decisions by South Korea, Japan and Australia on whether to join a new Chinese-led Asian infrastructure bank as founding members, China's foreign ministry said Friday.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has recently gained traction as major Western economies, including Britain, Germany and France, decided to join the Chinese-led bank. Close U.S. allies in Asia -- South Korea, Australia and Japan -- have yet to make their decisions.

The end of March is the deadline set by China for all interested parties to join the new bank, which many experts see as a counterbalance to the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, which have been dominated by the United States and other Western economies.

South Korean Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan has said Seoul will make a decision by the deadline, while Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said earlier in the day that Tokyo could consider joining the AIIB if conditions are met.

Asked about the stances by South Korea and Japan, China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei replied, "With regard to our neighbors in Asia such as South Korea and Japan as well as an important Asia-Pacific country Australia, these countries also expressed that they will make a positive consideration about this issue."

"We are open to their decisions," Hong said.

The United States has been negative about the Chinese push that is seen widely as an attempt to bolster its economic clout in Asia.

The U.S. has called for transparency and high standards of governance as key requirements for such an institution.

China has offered $50 billion with a reported stake of up to 50 percent in the AIIB, which South Korea viewed negatively because China could make a unilateral decision in the bank.

"The establishment of the AIIB is to promote economic development and infrastructure building in Asia," Hong said. "We welcome those who intend to join the AIIB."