The tiny country is one of four Pacific nations that still maintain official ties with Taiwan, as China seeks support in the region.
The leader of the Pacific island of Tuvalu has vowed to “stand firmly” over his ties with Taiwan, while China expands its influence in the region.
Tuvalu, with a population of about 10,000 people, is one of 14 countries that maintain full diplomatic relations with Taiwan, a self-governing democracy that Beijing claims as a vassal, and one of four countries in the Pacific where China is stepping up its efforts to win support.
Speaking at a welcome party in Taipei hosted by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Kausea Natano, said “decent and shared values” have always been an added strength to their bond. Tuvalu has maintained diplomatic relations with Taipei for more than 40 years.
“Through the turbulent times of geostrategic agendas, we continue to uphold our commitment to remain a lasting and loyal ally of the Republic of China,” said Natano, referring to Taiwan by its official name.
“I recognize the basic pillars of our diplomatic relations, which include two nations founded on the principles of democracy, trust, human rights and individual liberty.”
Natano is making his first trip to Taiwan since he was elected in 2019.
Hailing their strong friendship, Tsai thanked Tuvalu for speaking on behalf of Taiwan on the world stage and for supporting its international participation.
“I express my deepest gratitude to Tuvalu for their priceless friendship,” she said.
Taiwan lost two Pacific allies to Beijing in 2019: the Solomon Islands and Kiribati. Nauru, Palau and the Marshall Islands, like Tuvalu, are stuck with Taipei.
The Solomon Islands have become a focal point in the escalating rivalry between China and the United States in the strategically important region, and have had a tense relationship with the United States and its allies since signing a security agreement with China this year.
The decision to switch diplomatic relations has also raised some concern within the country of 700,000 people. Last November, the capital, Honiara, was rocked by riots that highlighted local rivalries and concern about the government’s growing ties with China. At least three people were killed in the unrest, which ended after the government requested help from Australia, which has a long-standing security agreement with the Solomon Islands.
The United States said it plans to reopen its embassy in Honiara and promised more diplomatic and security assistance to the region. President Joe Biden is scheduled to host leaders of Pacific Island nations in Washington, D.C., from September 28-29.