Hong Kong pushing for regional AIIB office, says finance chief

Participants pose during the opening ceremony of the second annual meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) at a convention center on South Korea's Jeju Island on June 16, 2017.

The fledgling development bank, now in its second year, has already taken on projects by itself and it will do more going forward, AIIB President Jin Liqun said on Saturday in Jeju, South Korea, following the institution's second annual conference.

The U.S. has shunned the initiative, while Japan has also stayed away but expressed openness to joint projects with the Manila, Philippines-based Asia Development Bank.

Seoul and Beijing also continue to be in disagreement over the deployment of the USA missile defense system THAAD, now operational at a former golf course in central South Korea.

North Korea's Pyongyang's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said this week Seoul has not taken action to "resolve the sharp military tensions on the Korean peninsula".

Since China began protesting the THAAD deployment in late February, visits by Chinese tourists have dropped sharply and some companies operating in China, South Korea's largest trading partner, were asked to suspend their operations there.

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"Kim and Xiao reconfirmed the strong economic ties between the two countries as this year marks the 25th anniversary of the normalization", said Choi Ji-young, a director at the Korea's Finance Ministry.

The bank has also approved three new members - Argentina, Madagascar and Tonga during the annual meeting, bringing the total membership to 80. "We are pretty confident that in the future years, the bank would expand its membership and also its portfolio for the good of this region", said Philippe Baudry, director-general of the Treasury of France.

The AIIB senior official added that the institution will be open to all countries willing to join it. On Thursday the bank approved US$324 million in loans and investment in projects in India, Georgia and Tajikistan. China has clamped down on its citizens visiting South Korea, which has squeezed tourism on Jeju, local businesses said.

For Seoul, the global meeting also came as Beijing is flexing its economic muscle against Seoul in protest of the deployment of an advanced USA missile defense system in South Korea.

The AIIB has pledged to use its investments to help members fulfill their commitments to the Paris climate accord, which the United States is withdrawing from under President Donald Trump. The three-day meeting was attended by representatives of the 77 AIIB member countries, and some 2,000 businessman and journalists from around the world.

  • Sonia Alvarado