Beijing signs security, economic and disaster relief deal with Pacific nation Tonga
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has successfully reached several bilateral agreements with Tonga on disaster relief, agriculture, fisheries, health and police equipment as he reaches the end of his term. ten-day trip around the Pacific.
It comes after Beijing pledged to continue pushing Pacific nations to join a broad regional security and economic deal despite the lack of consensus among Pacific nations on the Chinese regime’s initial proposal.
Wang has visited the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa and Fiji to date. He will travel to Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste in the coming days.
On Tuesday, Wang met Tongan Prime Minister Hu’akavemeiliku Siasi Sovaleni and King Tupou VI at the Royal Palace, where the leaders signed a slice of bilateral agreements that will see China provide a police lab and equipment customs inspection in Tonga, disaster relief, humanitarian aid, blue economy cooperation and a tomb improvement project.
The announcement of deepening bilateral ties comes after Tonga, one of the poorest countries in the Pacific, signed up to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2021. It also owes two-thirds of its foreign debt, worth 195 million dollars, to Chinese export-import. Bank, its budget statement shows.
Tonga is still recovering from a volcanic eruption and tsunami that wreaked havoc on the Pacific nation in January. The event saw major countries pledge financial aid in a bid to compete for influence.
Beijing sent two Chinese navy ships, two Chinese fishing vessels and two Y-20 military aircraft to Tonga for emergency assistance. The Chinese Red Cross has also provided Tonga with cash assistance of $100,000.
Meanwhile, Australia has provided a $16 million package to support Tonga’s long-term reconstruction and recovery, alongside the delivery of nearly 55,000 Pfizer vaccines to support Tonga’s pandemic response, and New Zealand provided Tonga with $3 million in humanitarian funding.
China is currently seeking broader security ties in Pacific countries, which, despite their small populations, have rich natural resources and strategic military sites.
Last week, a leak on the common vision of development between China and Pacific island countries revealed Beijing’s plan to cooperate with 10 Pacific countries in the areas of free trade, fisheries, security, cybersecurity and maritime cartography.
The deal, however, was put on hold for lack of consensus, with David Panuelo, president of the Federated States of Micronesia, warning that the pact could spark a new ‘cold war’.
On May 27, Wang met with Vice President of Kiribati Teuea Toatu and managed to secure a commitment to deepen ties. Kiribati’s ambassador to China, David Teaabo, said the leaders were to sign 10 memorandums of understanding, according to Chinese state media Global Times.
On May 28, Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa pledged to deepen cooperation in areas such as infrastructure development, pandemic response, climate change and education.
Upon his accession, Mata’afa canceled a $100 million deal under the Belt and Road Initiative in the country’s capital, Apia, but the prime minister still wanted to continue building diplomatic ties with Beijing.
Daniel Y. Teng contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times