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(LEAD) U.S. says it's up to S. Korea to decide on AIIB

2015/03/18 05:56

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, March 17 (Yonhap) -- The United States said Tuesday it is up to South Korea to decide whether to join a Chinese-led international development bank.

South Korea has been in a dilemma over whether to join the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that China launched last year with 20 other nations in an effort to bolster its economic clout by creating a counterbalance to the Asia Development Bank led by the United States.

China has called for Seoul's participation and the United States has been negative about it.

Seoul plans to decide whether to join the AIIB soon as China has said the deadline to become a founding member of the bank is the end of this month. Britain announced its plan last week to join the bank, becoming the first Western country to do so. France and Germany followed suit.

"It's a decision of any sovereign country, including South Korea, to make on AIIB," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a regular press briefing.

Psaki said that the United States believes there is a pressing need to enhance infrastructure investment around the world, but any new multilateral institution should incorporate the high standards that the international community has collectively built at the World Bank and the regional development bank.

"As was true with the United Kingdom, the decision of any country to join is certainly a decision made by a sovereign country. But it will be important for prospective members of the AIIB to push for the adoption of those same high standards," she said.

South Korea has also been in a quandary over whether to allow the United States to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system to the country.

The possibility of a THAAD deployment has left South Korea badly divided, with supporters saying the deployment would help better protect against North Korea's ballistic missile threats, and opponents claiming it would inflame tensions with China and Russia.

South Korean and U.S. officials have said there have been no official consultations on the issue.

"We have not formally consulted with South Korea ... and no decisions have been made on a potential deployment to the Korean Peninsula," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a regular briefing.

China has expressed strong opposition to a THAAD deployment to South Korea.

Earlier this week, Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Liu Jianchao said in Seoul that the South should take China's "concerns and worries" into consideration when making a decision on a THAAD deployment.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel took a swipe at Liu's remarks, saying he finds it "curious that a third country would presume to make strong representations about a security system that has not been put in place and that is still a matter of theory."

   When asked why China is opposed to a THAAD deployment, State Department spokeswoman Psaki said, "Why are the Chinese opposed? I would ask the Chinese government that question."

   jschang@yna.co.kr

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