The leader of small but strategically located Kiribati has won a closely watched presidential run-off after campaigning on a pro-China platform, in a set back to Taiwan’s hopes to re-establish ties with a country that ditched it for Beijing last year.

The result, confirmed to Reuters by the island nation’s High Court, came after a fierce campaign that pitted the pro-Beijing leader against ally-turned-rival Banuera Berina, who is sympathetic to Taiwan.

China has taken an increasingly assertive role in the Pacific, to concern in Washington and Canberra which tend to view the region as their backyard.