Australia foreign minister touts Tuvalu security, migration pact

78th UNGA General Debate at UN HQ in New York

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on Sunday that a security and migration pact signed with Tuvalu showed Australia was a "genuine, reliable" regional partner, as it seeks to counter China's influence in the Pacific.

Australia announced on Friday the security guarantee to the tiny Pacific Islands nation to respond to military aggression, protect it from climate change and boost migration.

Australia, a United States ally, has been working to shore up its Pacific standing amid a rising China, which recently upgraded a security pact with Solomon Islands.

"It is about Australia saying to the region and to Tuvalu, we are a genuine, reliable partner and when we say we are part of the Pacific family, we mean it," Wong told the Australian Broadcasting Corp, regarding the Tuvalu pact.

Asked if it was linked to China's activity in the region, Wong said: "We recognise we live in a more contested region and we have to work harder to be a partner of choice, we know that".

Under the treaty, announced in the Cook Islands by Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his Tuvalu counterpart Kausea Natano, Australia will also vet Tuvalu's security arrangements with other nations.

Albanese has called the pact Australia's most significant agreement with a Pacific Island nation, giving "a guarantee that upon a request from Tuvalu for any military assistance based upon security issues, Australia will be there."

Tuvalu, population around 11,000, is one of just 13 nations to maintain an official diplomatic relationship with Taiwan, as Beijing has made increasing Pacific inroads.

A collection of nine low-lying islands mid-way between Australia and Hawaii, Tuvalu is one of the world's most at-risk countries from climate change and has long drawn international attention to the issue.

(Reporting by Sam McKeith in Sydney; Editing by David Gregorio)