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Tuvalu's new government says it still stands with Taiwan

February 28, 2024

All eyes were on Tuvalu after a senior lawmaker hinted at a shift in the island nation's diplomatic policy in favor of China. Tuvalu's new prime minister, however, said his country is sticking with Taiwan.

An aerial view of Tuvalu island
Tuvalu is one of the few remaining allies of Taiwan in the PacificImage: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images for Lumix

Tuvalu's newly elected government has reiterated its allegiance to Taiwan, resting speculations that the South Pacific island nation is ready to switch its diplomatic ties in favor of China.

Tuvalu, Taiwan have 'lasting special relationship'

"The new government wishes to reaffirm its commitment to the long-term and lasting special relationship between Tuvalu and the Republic of China, Taiwan," Prime Minister Feleti Teo's government said in a statement of priorities.

Earlier, during recent elections, senior politician Seve Paeniu hinted that Tuvalu's new government could turn its diplomatic inclination towards China.

The elections in Tuvalu held last month were therefore watched closely by the US and China.

However, Taiwan's envoy in Tuvalu tried to end the speculated shift in diplomatic policy on Monday and told news agencies that "the relationship between Taiwan and Tuvalu is firm, rock solid, durable and everlasting."

How can Taiwan defend itself from China?

The new government said that it wanted to "reassess options" to "strengthen and lift" relations with Taiwan to establish a "more durable, lasting, and mutually beneficial relationship."

Tuvalu is one of the last three Pacific allies of Taiwan left after Nauru recognized China and cut its ties with Taipei.

Tuvalu, Australia to revisit wide-ranging security agreement

The reaffirmation of Tuvalu's ties with Taiwan came through a document titled a "Statement of Priorities" for the new government.

The statement also mentioned a dialogue with Australia over a security pact that was signed last year and cited transparency issues around it.

The pact would allow the Tuvalu citizens to move to Australia if Tuvalu sank into the sea due to rising waters. The agreement also ensures Australian protection for Tuvalu if the island experiences natural disasters, a military assault or an outbreak of disease.

"Australia stands ready to engage with Prime Minister Teo and his government on the priorities they have outlined," a spokesperson for Australia's foreign ministry said following the release of Tuvalu's official statement.

The deal is beneficial for Australia, as it bolsters Canberra's security foothold in the Pacific, repelling Chinese influence. 

Taiwan ally Nauru cuts diplomatic ties days election

mfi/wd (AFP, Reuters)