Feliti Teo has been appointed Tuvalu's new prime minister after elections ousted a Taiwan supporter

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Former Tuvalu Attorney General Feliti Teo was named prime minister of the small South Pacific nation on Monday after… Elections a month ago Overthrow of the last head of government.

Teo was the only candidate nominated by his 15 fellow lawmakers, and Governor-General Tofija Vaivalu Falani declared him elected without a vote, Secretary of Government Tofua Panaba said in a statement.

The swearing-in ceremony for Teo and his cabinet is scheduled to be held later this week.

It was not immediately clear how the new government would affect it China's influence In the country of about 11,500 people located halfway between Australia and Hawaii, although one expert said he did not expect any change in diplomatic recognition, at least in the short term.

Former Prime Minister, kosia natano, Three of his eight ministers were not re-elected in the January 26 elections.

He wanted Natano Tuvalu It remains one of only 12 countries that maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the self-governing democratic country that China claims as its own territory.

Natanu's former finance minister, Seif Bainio, who was seen as a leadership contender, has called for a reconsideration of Tuvalu's relations with both Beijing and Taiwan.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Naing urged Tuvalu to transfer its diplomatic recognition to China.

She added: “We call on a group of countries that still maintain the so-called relationship with the Taiwan region to stand on the right side of history and make the right decision that truly serves their long-term interests.”

Nauru, another Pacific island nation, has severed ties with Taiwan She sent them back with China Last month.

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A proposed security treaty between Tuvalu and Australia could be rewritten or scrapped under the new government. The treaty, announced in November last year, commits Australia to helping Tuvalu respond to major natural disasters, epidemics and military aggression.

Australia was offered to the people of Tuvalu A lifeline to help residents escape rising sea levels and increased storms caused by climate change. Tuvalu's low-lying atolls make it particularly special Vulnerable to global warming. Australia will initially allow up to 280 people from Tuvalu to come to Australia each year.

The treaty, which has not yet been ratified, would also give Australia veto power over any security or defense agreement Tuvalu wants to conclude with any other country, including China.

Tuvalu MP Enele Sopoaga, who was prime minister until the previous election in 2019, opposes the treaty.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese mentioned the treaty when he congratulated Teo on his election.

“Australia greatly values ​​our relationship with Tuvalu, in the spirit of the Vallebele Union,” Albanese said on social media, referring to the treaty officially known as the Valebele Union between Australia and Tuvalu.

“Tuvalu can count on Australia’s support and I look forward to working with Prime Minister Teo,” Albanese added.

Before announcing Teo as prime minister, Meg Kean, director of the Pacific Islands Program at the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based think tank, said the new government would review the treaty and “put its own stamp on it.”

“My view is that improvements can be negotiated and the deal has a good chance of moving forward,” Keane said.

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George Carter, an international politics expert at the Australian National University, said Teo had support from a majority of 10 of the 16 lawmakers within two weeks of the election.

Carter said Teo's supporters want Tuvalu to continue its ties with Taiwan and that a change of allegiances to Beijing is unlikely in the near future.

I think he will try not to upset current considerations regarding support for Taiwan at the moment. But things can change.”

Carter said Teo told his supporters that Sopoaga, the former prime minister, and Baño, the former finance minister, would be excluded from his cabinet.

The United States and China are competing for influence in the South Pacific. A U.S. Coast Guard vessel patrolled the waters around Kiribati for six days earlier this month with members of the country's maritime police, twice boarding Chinese fishing boats, the Coast Guard said last weekend. “The crew found that the ships comply with all requirements,” a statement said.

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Lavallette contributed from Perth, Australia. Associated Press writer Ken Moritsugu in Beijing contributed.

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