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Solomon Islands lawmakers on Thursday elected a pro-China former foreign minister as the country’s new prime minister in a move that is expected to continue the archipelago’s tilt toward Beijing, the Guardian reported.

The victor, Jeremiah Manele, oversaw the transition when the Pacific nation severed its decades-long ties with Taiwan in favor of Beijing in 2019 under his predecessor, outgoing Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

Coming just days after Sogavare declared he was withdrawing from the race, as his Ownership, Unity and Responsibility (OUR) Party to secure a majority in last month’s parliamentary polls, the vote that was closely watched by China, Australia and the United States, which are competing for influence in the region.

Since cutting ties with Taiwan, Sogavare in 2022 reached a security pact with China, which has been expanding its reach in a region long dominated by the United States and Australia. Along with other security agreements, the alliance with the Solomons archipelago, which is made up of hundreds of islands near important international shipping lanes, will further extend China’s influence.

Some of Manele’s past statements suggest he will stay the course. At the time of the shift from supporting Taiwan to allying with China, for instance, Manele told Chinese state media that the switch had “paid off” and was “putting us on the right side of history,” according to Nikkei Asia.

However, political analysts noted that Manele could move to improve ties with the West, adding that he had “a strong track record of working well with all international partners,” unlike Sogavare who was “a polarizing figure.”

Meanwhile, some in the Solomon Islands are expressing concern about being too aligned with China, even as it remains the country with the closest ties to China in the region.

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