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Taiwan fears ties will be cut after Tuvalu election

Expected new prime minister Seve Paeni will review relationship with Taiwan and China to benefit Tuvalu

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Seve Paeniu. (Facebook, Tuvalu Trust Fund photo)

Seve Paeniu. (Facebook, Tuvalu Trust Fund photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan-friendly Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano lost his parliamentary seat in Friday's (Jan. 26) election, dampening prospects for continuing diplomatic ties between the two countries.

The official election results are set to be published on Saturday (Jan. 27) local time, with a prime minister set to be decided in the following days.

Tuvalu's finance minister Seve Paeni is expected to head the country. He previously vowed to review the Pacific Island country's relationship with Taiwan and China to ensure a foreign policy that was to Tuvalu's advantage.

Located midway between Hawaii and Australia in the South Pacific Ocean and with a population of about 11,200, Tuvalu is one of the world's 12 remaining countries that formally recognize the government of Taiwan. Two days after the Democratic Progress Party's presidential candidate Lai Ching-te (賴清德) won the election on Jan. 13, the government of Nauru announced it would switch ties from Taiwan to China.

On Saturday (Jan. 27) Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement congratulating Tuvalu for a "transparent and peaceful" election. The ministry reiterated it had a good relationship with Tuvalu, saying it would continue with its bilateral projects that include agriculture, healthcare, clean energy, information technology, and climate change.

China and the United States are said to be in a contest for influence in the Pacific region, with Tuvalu expected to be the beneficiary. Washington recently pledged to connect the tiny and remote Pacific nation by undersea cable to global telecommunications for the first time, according to Reuters.