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Tuvalu names new PM as Taiwan and China vie for influence

February 26, 2024

During the election campaign, there was speculation that Tuvalu could flip its alliance from Taiwan to China. Taiwan's ambassador to the Pacific nation said their ties remain "rock solid."

An aerial shot of Funafuti, Tuvalu
Feleti Teo was nominated unopposed to lead the tiny atoll nation of TuvaluImage: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Tuvalu's former Attorney-General Feleti Teo was named prime minister of the tiny South Pacific nation Monday.

Teo was the only nominee after the previous prime minister, Kausea Natano, lost his seat at the January 26 election.

"It is the first time in our history that a prime minister has been nominated unopposed," said Tuvaluan lawmaker Simon Kofe.

The selection of a new prime minister had been delayed since the January vote because bad weather prevented MPs from outlying islands from reaching the capital.

Tuvalu is made up of tiny atolls in the Pacific Ocean and is home to around 11,000 people. Rising sea levels pose an existential threat to the country.

Foreign relations in the spotlight

Tuvalu's election in January was watched closely by China and Taiwan.

The Pacific nation is one of 12 countries that formally recognize Taiwan, but there had been speculation that the nation could instead establish relations with Beijing.

During the election campaign, then-Finance Minister Seve Paeniu, said the new government should review its ties with Taipei and Beijing.

Rumors were also fueled after the neighboring nation of Nauru severed ties with Taiwan in favor of China.

Taiwan's ambassador to Tuvalu, Andrew Lin, said the new government assured him that ties between the two nations are "rock solid, durable and everlasting."

"I was invited to attend a lunch with all the MPs and the newly elected PM. I had conversations with all of them and had assurances from all of them," Lin told the AFP news agency on Monday.

Tuvalu reached a deal with Australia last November that aims to help Tuvaluns escape rising sea levels in exchange for Australia getting veto power over security and defense-related agreements. The treaty has not yet been ratified.

zc/ab (AFP, AP, Reuters)