Cheque books continue to open for Pacific nations as aid to the region almost doubles this year. Western countries including the United States and Australia have committed more than previously, while China has been a big spender.
The Chinese have taken the credit for this. Chinese Ambassador to Fiji Qian Bo stated there was very little development assistance to some nations in the Pacific until the Chinese influence in terms of aid and assistance started growing.
As part of the new Chinese initiative, Tonga and China have signed a number of bilateral cooperation agreements which include provision of a fingerprint laboratory, economic cooperation, and assistance in disaster risk reduction.
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For Tonga, which subscribes to the One China policy, the recent visit by the Chinese Foreign Minister was a fruitful one.
Tonga’s Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni and Mr Wang met at the Prime Minister’s Office in Nukualofa. Both nations have shared diplomatic ties since 1998.
Mr Sovaleni said the agreements were to assist in Tonga’s long-term development in common interest areas, such as disaster risk reduction and emergency response.
“It continues to outline the high-level comprehensive strategic partnership between our two countries,” he said.
Mr Sovaleni said Tonga was grateful to China for the relief assistance offered after the volcanic eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai and tsunamis.
Mr Wang also visited the Tongan Royal Palace and met with King Tupou VI. The Kingdom’s willingness and openness to deal with China was expressed here.
King Tupou Vi mentioned that as sovereign states, Pacific Island countries have the right to choose how they deal with other countries.
A clear outcome of the geopolitical warfare is a louder call from Pacific nations for the Western world to respect their sovereign rights to enter into diplomatic ties with whom they choose.
And as Mr Wang exited Tonga, Ms Wong arrives to discuss how the new Australian government can forge a closer relationship.
Her message to the Pacific nations she has visited has been on respect, mutual understanding and action on climate change coupled with aid agreements.
Below are list of agreements signed between Tonga and China:
• Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Communications and Climate Change of the Kingdom of Tonga and the Ministry of Emergency Management of the People’s Republic of China on Cooperation in the Area of Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Response.
• Memorandum of Understanding on Deepening Blue Economy Cooperation between the Ministry of Trade and Economic Development of the Kingdom of Tonga and the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China.
• Handover Certificate on the China-Aid Non-intrusive Imaging Inspection Equipment Project to Tonga Customs Between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga.
• Letter of Exchanges on the Provision of One Fingerprint Examination Laboratory between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga.
• Memorandum of Understanding between China and Tonga on the Grant-Aid Assistance provided by Dongguan City, Guangdong Province, People’s Republic of China to the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga in 2022.
• Agreement for the Peripheral Area of Mala’ekula Royal Tomb Improvement Project.