US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday last week encouraged Tuvalu to work with Taiwan in pushing for democracy in the Pacific region, amid media reports that the selection of a new prime minister in the South Pacific nation could complicate its diplomatic relationship with Taiwan.
Pompeo mentioned the cooperation between Tuvalu and Taiwan in a statement released before a scheduled appearance at next month’s ceremony to mark the 41st anniversary of Tuvalu’s independence.
The US has been a friend of Tuvalu since it gained independence in 1978, Pompeo said, adding that the close ties extended back to earlier generations.
“We welcome your commitment to advancing our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region with other democracies in the Pacific region, including Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and Japan,” Pompeo said.
Earlier this month, newly installed Tuvaluan lawmakers elected Kausea Natano as the new prime minister, replacing former Tuvaluan prime minister Enele Sopoaga, who was pro-Taiwan.
That has raised concerns over the state of its ties with Taiwan.
International media have reported that the new political situation in Tuvalu could provide an opportunity for Beijing to convince it to switch diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China.
Tuvalu is one of four diplomatic allies that Taiwan has in the South Pacific, along with Palau, Nauru and the Marshall Islands.
Last week, Taiwan lost two diplomatic allies. On Monday, the Solomon Islands decided to switch allegiance from Taipei to Beijing and four days later, Kiribati did the same, leaving Taiwan with only 15 diplomatic allies.
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