Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Tonga Broadens Diplomatic Horizons.

The 44th Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) opened this week, in Majuro, Marshalls Islands.

On the margins of the PIF Forum, an interesting development-Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill handed over a TOP $2.2M cheque to Tonga's Prime Minster, Lord Va'kaiano, tweeted by a Tongan official.

Tongan senior officials, meet with bil-lateral discussions with PIF observers, officials from United Arab Emirates.

 Tonga's Education Minister meets Cuban Ambassador, also on the margins of the PIF.

These diplomatic engagements by Tonga are indicative of the Kingdom's intention to broaden their outlook beyond their traditional diplomatic spheres. This may be an extension of the events, derived from Tonga's relations with New Zealand that had been mildly estranged, in the wake of a fiasco surrounding the withdrawal of Tourism Aid to Tonga, linked to the use of a Chinese donated plane.

Tonga's Deputy Prime Minister, Samiu Vaipulu retaliated with a broad side at New Zealand's meddlesome behavior, "We just don’t want anyone to interfere with our internal matters. They should not. And they have done that for years. And that’s what Fiji did and we should do the same thing."

Apprehensive DFAT officials New Zealand were quick to appease the pernicious effects to diplomatic relations. A visit by Defense Force chief, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones eventuated and gym equipment was donated, as a precursor to strengthen military ties with the Kingdom, as reported by Matangi Tonga.

The excerpt of Matangi Tonga article:  

NZ Defence Chief seeks stronger ties with Tonga
Friday, August 30, 2013 - 18:05 Nuku'alofa, Tonga

The New Zealand Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, is on a two-day counterpart visit to Tonga to ensure a stronger bond and cooperation with the Tonga Defence Services. Lt. Gen. Jones said today New Zealand and Tonga Defence have a strong close cooperation and partnership in the region over the past decade.
That long history and partnership provides a really good foundation for us to continue working strongly in the future, he said. “The objective of my visit is to ensure the relationship between our two militaries is made stronger and there is an opportunity for New Zealand Defence to engage in the right way with TDS and cemented for the future.
We have new capabilities that are available for example our patrol aircrafts are now available in greater numbers as well as our offshore patrol vessels.”

Lt. Gen. Rhys Jones and Tonga PM, Lord Tu'ivakano (Matangi Tonga)
He met with the Tonga Defence Commander Brigadier-General Tau'aika 'Uta'atu and discussed how to intergrate these capabilities into their partnership and handed over new gym equipment. “TDS has developed an infrastructure plan and we provide support where we can on each of those programs.

I also had discussions with Brigadier ‘Uta’atu over barracks and facilities development, the programs for development, and whether there is any opportunity for us to participate in,” he said. Tonga New Zealand cooperation, he said was evident in training programs where New Zealand Defence comes to Tonga and runs courses or hosts training for Tongan personnel in New Zealand. “This has gone on for decades, which has caused a deep relationship between individuals, our two defence services and formally between our two nations,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Jones said he also met Tonga's Prime Minister Lord Tu'ivakano and discussed the daily needs of the Tonga Defence and other wider issues including infrastructure development. “Tonga Defence is respected and has a good reputation around the world. TDS has gained a lot of experience having worked with the Americans in Iraq and the mission to Afghanistan alongside New Zealand and Australian troops as well as in Bougainville and in the Solomons in the Pacific region,” he said. Lt. Gen. Jones who visited Samoa and Tonga, returns to New Zealand on August 31.

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