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June 24, 2017

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Mainland finance officials to skip Tokyo IMF meeting

TOKYO -- China's central bank governor and finance minister won't be attending IMF and World Bank annual meetings in Tokyo this week in an apparent snub to Japan that comes as the two Asian giants remain at odds over a cluster of tiny islands both claim.

The International Monetary Fund said that People's Bank of China Gov. Zhou Xiaochuan, who was scheduled to give the event's closing speech on Sunday, had cited scheduling problems for his decision to cancel his Tokyo trip. The IMF said his deputy, Yi Gang, will represent him at the meeting and will deliver Sunday's lecture.

China's official Xinhua news agency published a report that said China's delegations to the meetings would be headed by Yi and Zhu Guangyao, a vice finance minister. China's central bank and Finance Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Experts said the move shows that China's government is giving more priority to taking a stand on the territorial flare-up even if it could undermine Beijing's past insistence that emerging economies should have a greater say in international financial policy-making bodies such as the 188-member IMF.

"China is sending a clear signal that this sovereignty dispute is important to China's top leadership," said Linda Jakobson, the East Asian program director at the Lowy Institute, a think tank in Sydney. "It definitely overrides the decision-making on global financial matters."

"I think other countries will be surprised by the decision," she said.

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