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Taiwan rejected as founding member of Beijing-led multilateral bank

A general view of the signing ceremony of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing October 24, 2014. REUTERS/Takaki Yajima/

By Ben Blanchard and Michael Gold

BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan expressed regret on Monday after China rejected its bid to become a founding member of the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), though China said Taiwan is welcome to join as an ordinary member in the future.

In a statement carried by the official Xinhua news agency, China's Taiwan Affairs Office said it confirmed what it said was a Hong Kong media report about the rejection of Taiwan. While the office provided no explanation, it repeated that Taiwan would be welcome to join if it used an appropriate name.

"The mainland will consider opinions from all sides to properly address the issue of Taiwan's membership," the statement said. "The related departments will consider Taiwan's membership when making the constitution for the AIIB."

China views Taiwan as a renegade province. Most countries, including the United States, do not recognise Taiwan as a nation due to pressure from China. Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations, the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. It is a member of the Asian Development Bank, though under the name of Taipei, China, not Taiwan.

Taiwan's government said it regretted the initial rejection, but maintained the island was keen to join the bank as long as its dignity was not harmed and it received equal treatment as other members.

The Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan's ministry in charge of China policy, said Taiwan would continue to communicate with all AIIB parties, including China, about its bid to become a full member, but that Taiwan's rights must be assured.

The rejection comes as Taiwan's ruling party, which had championed the AIIB application, said its chairman Eric Chu will visit China in May to attend a cross-straits forum. The visit has drawn criticism from Taiwan's pro-independence opposition party.

"Taiwan is a nation. Our negotiations with China should be government-to-government, not party-to-party negotiations conducted in secret," Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said in response to Chu's visit.

Tsai is widely expected to be a candidate in next year's presidential elections.

Taiwan's decision to join the AIIB has sparked a heated debate in democratic Taiwan, where deepening relations with autocratic China have caused growing unease.

China has not ruled out the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control. But since Taiwan's current president Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008, enmity has declined considerably and both sides have signed a number of trade and investment deals.

(Additional reporting by J.R. Wu in TAIPEI; Editing by Ryan Woo)