Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, announced Monday he is resigning at the end of January.
Kim's unexpected departure — nearly three years before his term was set to expire — is likely to set off a fierce battle between President Donald Trump's administration and countries who have complained about the influence the United States exerts over the World Bank.
The official announcement of his departure provided no reason for his sudden departure. It will give Trump the opportunity to nominate his choice to fill the World Bank post.
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The 189-nation World Bank is the largest government source for development funding, providing low-cost loans for projects around the world.
Since the creation of the World Bank at the end of World War II, its leaders have all been Americans. Its sister lending agency, the International Monetary Fund, has always been headed by a European.
Other countries, including China and other Asian nations, have complained about this pattern. The IMF, which provides emergency loans to countries in economic crisis, is currently headed by former French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.
Kim, the former head of Dartmouth College, was first tapped by former President Barack Obama to lead the World Bank in 2012. He was nominated by Obama for a second term in August 2016.
In his resignation statement, Kim said he planned to join a firm that will focus on increasing infrastructure investments in developing countries. He will also rejoin Partners in Health, an organization he co-founded more than 30 years ago to provide medical support to poor nations.
The World Bank said Kim will be succeeded Feb. 1 on an interim basis by Kristalina Georgieva, its chief executive officer.
"It has been a great honor to serve as president of this remarkable institution, full of passionate individuals dedicated to the mission of ending extreme poverty in our lifetime," Kim said.
Kim's permanent successor will be decided by the World Bank's board of directors. The United States is the largest shareholder in the bank, which is headquartered in Washington.