During a 5 September visit to Taiwan, the Prime Minister of the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, Kausea Natano, declared that Tuvalu will continue to “stand firm” with Taiwan. Tuvalu is on a shrinking list of only 14 nations which still choose to recognize Taiwan over mainland China, and at a time when Sino-American rivalry is intensifying, including over the allegiance of Pacific island nations, Tuvalu’s strong diplomatic commitment to Taiwan has real significance.
Speaking of his country’s unwavering commitment to Taiwan, Prime Minister Natano highlighted the democratic values which Taiwan and Tuvalu share:
“Through tumultuous times of geostrategic agendas, we continue to stand firm in our commitment to remain a lasting and loyal ally of the Republic of China. […] I recognize the cornerstones of our diplomatic ties, involving two nations founded on the principles of democracy, trust, human rights and freedom of the individual.”
The recent visit by Prime Minister Natano also resulted in a number of agreements between the two democracies; Tuvalu and Taiwan signed a Joint Communiqué on the Reaffirmation of Diplomatic Relations, an Agreement on Coast Guard Cooperation, and an Agreement on Police Cooperation.
Tuvalu’s loyalty was tested when in 2019 China offered to construct artificial islands for Tuvalu which would help the country overcome the challenge stemming from rising sea levels which are projected to completely submerge the island nation by the end of the century. Yet, despite rising sea levels being an existential threat to the nation of 12,000, Tuvalu rejected the Chinese offer. Climate issues are unsurprisingly a key point of cooperation between Tuvalu and Taiwan.
Nevertheless, Taiwan and the US have lost some ground against China in the central Pacific region. Kiribati dropped its recognition of Taiwan in favor of China in 2019 and the Solomon Islands did so in 2020. The Solomon Islands in particular have moved closer to China in recent months as the country has seen more and more investments from Chinese companies and had signed a new security agreement with China earlier this year. Just last week, the Solomon Islands issued a moratorium suspending all foreign navy visits to the island. Nevertheless, it appears that the government’s pro-China turn has not been very popular with the nation’s citizens, meaning that future elections have a potential to reverse the trend.