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Tuvalu PM candidate seeks to 'review' Taiwan ties

Candidate would also scrap Australia-Tuvalu security and migration deal

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Tuvalu is pictured from the air. (Canva photo)

Tuvalu is pictured from the air. (Canva photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Tuvalu will review its relationship with Taiwan and China if finance minister Seve Paeni becomes prime minister after Friday's (Jan. 26) election, the candidate has said.

The Guardian reported on Thursday that Paeniu, who seeks to become Tuvalu’s prime minister after the parliamentary election, said there are differing views within Tuvalu’s government on the “Taiwan-China issue.”

“So, I take the view that this is something that is open for review,” he said. Paeniu said reviewing ties with Taiwan and China would be to ensure a foreign policy approach that was most beneficial to Tuvalu.

Paeniu, who is also Tuvalu’s finance minister, said he would scrap a security and migration deal recently signed with Australia that has yet to be ratified. Experts say if the agreement came into force, it would make it harder for Tuvalu to break ties with Taiwan in favor of China.

Tuvalu is one of the 12 remaining countries that formally recognizes the Republic of China, the government of Taiwan, over the People’s Republic of China, which governs China. Speculation that Tuvalu will break ties with Taiwan increased after Nauru made the switch to China following Taiwan’s presidential election.

Enele Sopoaga is also campaigning for Tuvalu's prime minister’s office, and said he would continue to recognize Taiwan as a “sovereign and independent state and diplomatic friend” if elected.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Taiwan’s ambassador to Tuvalu Tung-heng Lin (林東亨) told CNA that if the incumbent is returned as prime minister following the election, Taiwan-Tuvalu ties will remain strong.

Tuvalu PM candidate seeks to 'review' Taiwan ties
Seve Paeniu. (Facebook, Tuvalu Trust Fund photo)

Lin said that after Nauru broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan on Jan. 15, current Prime Minister Kausea Natano sent a letter to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to reaffirm stable Taiwan-Tuvalu ties. Lin also said Tuvalu’s foreign minister congratulated Lai Ching-te (賴清德) after he was elected president on Jan. 13, which he cited as evidence of reaffirming the bilateral relationship.

Lin said suggestions that ties between Taiwan and Tuvalu were unstable were due to “manipulation” from “actors behind the scenes,” and said that China uses cognitive warfare to suppress Taiwan’s international space. On Sunday, Tuvalu’s ambassador to Taiwan said that sources had told him his country may break ties with Taiwan, which Lin said was inconsistent with Tuvalu’s position.

Tuvalu will elect new legislators to its 16-seat parliament on Friday. As there are no political parties in the country, elected legislators will negotiate to form factions after the vote, and the largest of which will choose the prime minister.

The results of Tuvalu’s election are expected on Friday evening, with a government and prime minister decided in the following days.