Beijing says Denmark applies to join China-backed AIIB investment bank

BEIJING (Reuters) - Denmark has applied to join the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), China's Ministry of Finance said on Sunday, becoming the latest European power to join the institution despite misgivings in the United States.

The Ministry of Finance said that Denmark has written to China to "announce its intention to apply to be a founding member" of the AIIB.

"China welcomes Denmark's decision," the ministry said in a statement on its website, adding that China will first seek the views of other members. If the decision is approved, Denmark will officially be a founding member of the AIIB on April 12, the ministry said.

On Saturday, Russia, Australia and the Netherlands became the latest three countries to say they plan to join the AIIB, adding clout to an institution seen as enhancing China's regional and global influence.

China has set a March 31 deadline to become a founding member of the AIIB, which is seen as a significant setback to US efforts to extend its influence in the Asia Pacific region and to balance China's growing financial clout and assertiveness.

The AIIB has been seen as a challenge to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, institutions Washington helped found and over which it exerts considerable influence.

The United States has urged countries to think twice about joining the AIIB until it could show sufficient standards of governance and environmental and social safeguards.

But the United States' European allies Britain, France, Germany and Italy announced this month they would join the bank, leading the Obama administration to reassess its stance.