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Australia will allow citizens of the Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu to claim asylum from the impacts of climate change, a benefit that is part of a deal aimed at curbing growing Chinese influence in the Asia-Pacific region, Reuters reported.

The agreement, known as the Falepili Union Treaty, will grant up to 280 visas per year for Tuvaluans to live in Australia. It also mandates that Australia protect the nation from military aggression.

The pact, signed earlier this month, also includes a $10.7 million pledge by Australia for land reclamation in Tuvalu.

Tuvalu, meanwhile, pledges to refrain from entering defense agreements with other nations without Australia’s approval.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called the pact “the most significant agreement between Australia and a Pacific island nation ever.”

Tuvalu, a nine-atoll archipelago, is at risk of disappearing entirely because of rising sea levels caused by global warming. By 2050, half of its capital Funafuti is expected to be flooded by high tides, the Sydney Morning Herald explained.

The nation had announced a plan to create a digital version of itself in January.

Australia’s veto over Tuvalu’s defense agreements with third parties enshrined in the pact is aimed at China, which is building up influence in the region and has made security pacts with other island nations such as the Solomon Islands.

One outcome of these security pacts is a reversal of diplomatic recognition by some countries of Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province of its country.

Tuvalu continues to have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, one of the 13 countries in the world to do so.

In 2019, it had refused a deal with China to shore up its land in exchange for security guarantees, the BBC noted.

Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano said the pact with Australia is beneficial for his 11,200-inhabitant country, the Herald added, also because immigrants’ remittances will boost the economy.

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