Foreign relations of Tonga
|This article's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. (March 2012)|
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Tonga, by a modification of its treaty of friendship with the United Kingdom in July 1970, is responsible for its own external affairs. It maintains cordial relations with most countries and has close relations with its Pacific neighbors and the United Kingdom. In 1998, it recognized the People's Republic of China and broke relations with Taiwan.
Tonga maintains strong regional ties in the Pacific. It is a full member of the Pacific Islands Forum, the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission, the South Pacific Tourism Organisation, the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. Tonga endorsed the Treaty of Rarotonga (the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty) in 1995. 
Tonga is, however, notably not one of the eight signatories of the Nauru Agreement Concerning Cooperation In The Management Of Fisheries Of Common Interest which collectively controls 25-30% of the world's tuna supply and approximately 60% of the western and central Pacific tuna supply .
In November 2011, Tonga was one of the eight founding members of Polynesian Leaders Group, a regional grouping intended to cooperate on a variety of issues including culture and language, education, responses to climate change, and trade and investment.
Tonga was admitted to the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970. Since it has always had its own monarch, its position in the Commonwealth is rather unusual.
Tonga was admitted to the United Nations in 1999.
Additionally outside the region, Tonga is a member or participant of the ACP (Lomé Convention), Asian Development Bank, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the G-77, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the International Development Association, the International Finance Corporation, International Hydrographic Organization, the IMF, the International Maritime Organization, Interpol, the International Olympic Committee, the ITU, the NAM, the UPU, the World Meteorological Organization and the World Trade Organization.
Bilateral diplomatic relations
As of January 2009, Tonga has four embassy-level bilateral diplomatic representations abroad: embassies in China and Japan, and High Commissions in Australia and New Zealand. The Tongan embassy in Japan was formally opened on 1 January 2009, although the two countries had established official diplomatic relations in 1970.
The Kingdom of Tonga and the People's Republic of China (PRC) established official diplomatic relations in 1998. The two countries maintain cordial diplomatic, economic and military relations. The current Ambassador of China in Tonga is Fan Guijin. The current ambassador of Tonga in China is Emeline Uheina Tuita.
These neighbouring countries in the South Pacific have a history of bilateral relations going back several centuries.
Fiji's Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama received "cheers and thunderous applause" from the Tongan public when he attended a Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tonga in October 2007; the crowd's "enthusiastic reception" of Fiji's leader was likened to "that accorded to a rock star" Radio Australia noted that he had been "the star of this year's meeting, for the people of Tonga", while TVNZ reported that he had been "given a hero's welcome".
In terms of inter-governmental relations, Tonga has generally avoided pressuring Fiji's "interim government" into holding democratic elections. However, Tongan Prime Minister Dr.Feleti Sevele has urged Bainimarama "to produce a credible roadmap to the election according to the Constitution and law of Fiji".
- Diplomatic relations were established in 1984.
- Greece is represented in Tonga through its embassy in Wellington, New Zealand.
The Kingdom of Tonga and the Soviet Union established formal diplomatic relations in 1976. Tonga was the first Pacific Island country to establish relations with the USSR. The USSR was dissolved in 1991 and was succeeded by Russia as the successor state.
On 2 October 2005, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Tonga ST T. Tupou exchanged telegrams offering congratulations on the occasion of 30th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between the two nations. In his heads of foreign ministries of Russia and Tonga expressed confidence in further development of Russian-Tongan relations in the interests of the peoples of both countries and strengthen peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region.
Tonga has had its longest formal relations with the United Kingdom, with which it remains on very good terms. The British explorer James Cook led expeditions to Tonga in 1773, 1774 and 1777. This was followed by extensive English missionary activity beginning in 1797. The mass conversion of most Tongans to Christianity – and primarily to Wesleyan Methodism – resulted in strong religious ties to England as the source of most of the missionaries involved. Indeed, it was in part through the assistance of the English missionary Shirley Baker (who baptized him) that George Tupou I established the current Tonga constitutional monarchy in 1875. This served to further strengthen Anglo-Tongan ties. While always remaining independent, Tonga became a British protected state under the so-called Treaty of Friendship on 18 May 1900, when European settlers and rival Tongan chiefs tried to oust the second king. The Treaty of Friendship and protected state status ended only in 1970 under arrangements established during the reign of Tonga's third monarch, Queen Sālote.
Tonga is unique among Pacific island nations in its never having been colonized. Its foreign relations, therefore, have always been as an independent monarchy free of the colonial relationships of its neighbors. (see History of Tonga).
Tonga's earliest foreign relations were rooted in conquest of many of its neighboring islands so that by the 12th century, Tongans, and the Tongan kings, the Tu'i Tonga, were known across the Pacific, from Niuē, Samoa to Tikopia they ruled these nations for over 400 years, leading some historians to refer to a "Tongan Empire," although it was more so a network of interacting navigators, chiefs and adventurers. Tonga's dominance of the region was greatly affected following first contact with the Dutch beginning in 1616 on the Northern Tongan islands "Cocos Island" (Tafahi) and "Traitors Island" (Niuatoputapu), and later in 1643 on the main island of Tonga itself. The Dutch did not establish a lasting presence, but Dutch reports led to interest from the British. The British explorer James Cook led expeditions to Tonga in 1773, 1774 and 1777. This was followed by extensive English missionary activity beginning in 1797. The mass conversion of most Tongans to Christianity – and primarily to Wesleyan Methodism – resulted in strong religious ties to England as the source of most of the missionaries involved. Indeed, it was in part through the assistance of the English missionary Shirley Baker (who baptized him) that George Tupou I established the current Tonga constitutional monarchy in 1875. This served to further strengthen Anglo-Tongan ties. While always remaining independent, Tonga became a British protected state under the so-called Treaty of Friendship on 18 May 1900, when European settlers and rival Tongan chiefs tried to oust the second king. This protected the Tongan monarchy from European or other colonizing powers in return for a special relationship with the United Kingdom.
In the 1950s, Anglo-Tongan relations were strengthened with the visit of each country's monarch to the other nation. In 1953, Tonga's Queen Sālote became the first Tongan monarch to visit Britain when she attended the coronation of Elizabeth II. Soon after, in 1954, the Queen Elizabeth then visited Tonga.
The Treaty of Friendship and protected state status ended only in 1970 under arrangements established during the reign of Tonga's third monarch, Queen Sālote.
As part of cost-cutting measures across the British Foreign Service, the British Government closed the British High Commission in Nukuʻalofa in March 2006, transferring representation of British interests in Tonga to the UK High Commissioner in Fiji. The last resident British High Commissioner was Paul Nessling.
In 2010, Tongan Brigadier General Tau'aika 'Uta'atu, Commander of the Tonga Defence Services, signed an agreement in London committing a minimum of 200 Tongan troops to cooperate with Britain's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
The United States and Tonga enjoy close cooperation on a range of international issues. Officers of the American Embassy in Suva, Fiji, are concurrently accredited to Tonga and make periodic visits since the United States has no permanent consular or diplomatic offices in Tonga. Although plans for a US consulate in Tonga were announced in 2008, it has yet to be established. Peace Corps Volunteers teach and provide technical assistance to Tongans. Tonga has no embassy in Washington, DC, but has a permanent representative to the United Nations in New York, Fekitamoeloa 'Utoikamanu, who also is accredited as ambassador to the United States. Tonga also has a consulate-general in San Francisco. A large number of Tongans reside in the United States, particularly in Utah, California and Hawaii.
Current foreign policy
Tonga's foreign policy as of January 2009 has been described by Matangi Tonga as "Look East" – namely, as establishing closer diplomatic and economic relations with Asia (which actually lies to the north-west of the Pacific kingdom). Tonga retains cordial relations with the United States. Although it remains on good terms with the United Kingdom, the two countries do not maintain particularly close relations, and the United Kingdom closed its High Commission in Tonga in 2006. Tonga's relations with Oceania's regional powers, Australia and New Zealand, are good.
In 1972, Tonga laid claim to, and invaded, the tide-washed, isolated Minerva Reefs, some 480 kilometers southwest of Nuku'olofa, to thwart efforts by a private group, Ocean Life Research Foundation, to establish an independent Republic of Minerva (now the Principality of Minerva) on the reefs and surrounding quays. In November 2005, Fiji laid a complaint with the International Seabed Authority claiming ownership of the reefs.
- "Tonga breaks relations with Taiwan". BBC. 30 October 1998. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
- "NZ may be invited to join proposed 'Polynesian Triangle' ginger group", Pacific Scoop, 19 September 2011.
- "New Polynesian Leaders Group formed in Samoa", Radio New Zealand International, 18 November 2011.
- "American Samoa joins Polynesian Leaders Group, MOU signed", Savali, 19 November 2011.
- "Tonga's diplomatic community grows", Matangi Tonga, 12 January 2009.
- PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Mission of the People's Republic of China to the European Union
- "Voreqe no 'leper'", Maria Burese, Fiji Times, 17 October 2007.
- "TONGA: Questions over Fiji election commitment", ABC Radio Australia, 18 October 2007.
- "Clark snubbed, Bainimarama welcomed". Television New Zealand. 16 October 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
- "Bainimarama vows army will abide by results of 2009 election", Fiji Times, 17 October 2007.
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece
- On the exchange of greeting telegrams between the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation and the Kingdom of Tonga on the occasion of 30 anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations
- The sun finally sets on our men in paradise, published in The Daily Telegraph, 21 March 2005.
- "US to open consulate in Tonga", ABC Radio Australia, 16 May 2008.
- "US consular office for Tonga", Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, 9 February 2009.
- "U.S. Relations With Tonga", U.S. Department of State, 29 August 2014.
- US Department of State
- "Fiji, Tonga dispute ownership of reef". Radio New Zealand International. 2005-11-01.