By Netani Rika
AUSTRALIA will set up a high commission in Tuvalu later this year.
This will be only the second foreign mission on the Pacific atoll in its 40 years of independence.
Taiwan is the only nation to have a permanent presence in Tuvalu.
Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga said the move was welcomed and timely.
"Australia recognises that Tuvalu stands at the front line of climate change and as such we are important to the world learning about the dangers of this phenomenon," Sopoaga told IB on Funafuti last week.
"Tuvalu appreciates Australia's concern and support in climate change and its assistance in building resilience."
Australia's High Commissioner to Fiji, John Feakes, confirmed the new mission.
"Foreign Minister (Julia) Bishop has instructed us to have the mission operational by January 1, 2019," he said.
Australian Foreign Affairs officials are in Tuvalu this week to discuss the new mission.
The High Commission is expected to also house a New Zealand diplomatic presence.
Tuvalu is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.
It's eight atolls are under threat from coastal erosion and salt water intrusion.