Beijing Inks Security, Economic and Disaster Relief Deal With Pacific Nation Tonga

Nina Nguyen
By Nina Nguyen
June 1, 2022Chinashare
Beijing Inks Security, Economic and Disaster Relief Deal With Pacific Nation Tonga
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks at the Lanting Forum on China-US relations in Beijing, China, on Feb. 22, 2021. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has managed to secure several bilateral agreements with Tonga on disaster relief, agriculture, fishery, health and police equipment as he reaches the backend of his ten-day trip around the Pacific.

It comes after Beijing vows to continue pushing Pacific nations to join a sweeping regional security and economy deal despite a lack of consensus among Pacific nations on the Chinese regime’s original proposal.

Wang has visited the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa and Fiji to date. He will be heading to Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste in the coming days.

On Tuesay, Wang met with Tonga Prime Minister Hu’akavemeiliku Siasi Sovaleni and King Tupou VI at the Royal Palace, where the leaders signed a tranche of bilateral agreements which will allow China to provide a police laboratory and customs inspection equipment to Tonga, disaster relief aid, blue economy cooperation, and a tomb improvement project.

The announcement of the deepening bilateral ties comes after Tonga, one of the Pacific’s poorest nations, signed up for Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative in 2021. It also owes two-thirds of its external debt—worth US$195 million—to China’s Export-Import Bank, its budget statement shows.

Tonga is still recovering from after a volcanic eruption and tsunami wreaked havoc on the Pacific nation in January. The event has seen major countries pledging financial aid in a bid to compete for influence.

Beijing has sent two Chinese Navy Ships, two Chinese fishing vessels and two Y-20 military aircrafts to Tonga for emergency assistance. The Red Cross Society of China also provided Tonga with $100,000 in cash assistance.

Meanwhile, Australia has provided a $16 million package to support Tonga’s long-term reconstruction and recovery alongside a delivery of nearly 55,000 Pfizer vaccines to support Tonga’s pandemic response, and New Zealand has provided Tonga with $3 million in humanitarian funding.

China is currently in the process of seeking wider security ties in Pacific nations, which, despite its small population, boast rich natural resources and strategic military locations.

Last week, a leaked China-Pacific Island Countries Common Development Vision revealed Beijing’s plan to cooperate with 10 Pacific nations in the fields of free trade, fisheries, security, cyber, and maritime mapping.

The deal, however, has been shelved following a lack of consensus, with David Panuelo, president of the Federated States of Micronesia, warning that the pact could trigger a new “Cold War.”

On May 27, Wang met with Kiribati Vice President Teuea Toatu and managed to secure a commitment to deepen ties. Kiribati’s ambassador to China, David Teaabo, said the leaders were to sign up to 10 memoranda of understanding, according to Chinese state-owned media Global Times.

On May 28, Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa committed to deepening cooperation in areas such as infrastructure development, pandemic response, climate change, and education.

Upon her accession, Mata’afa had cancelled a $100 million Belt and Road Initiative deal in the country’s capital, Apia, yet the prime minister was still keen to continue building diplomatic ties with Beijing.

Daniel Y. Teng contributed to this report. 

From The Epoch Times

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