Monday, May 29, 2023

New US Embassy in Tonga Reflects Enduring Ties

The United States opened an embassy in Tonga on 9 May as part of a growing partnership between the two countries, which have had diplomatic relations since 1972.

The opening of the US Embassy in Nuku’alofa comes at a time when the two countries are working together on issues ranging from economic development and maritime security to the climate crisis.

“This inauguration marks a renewal of our relationship and underscores the strength of our bilateral relationship, our commitment to the people of Tonga and our partnership in the Indo-Pacific region,” said US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

Deputy Director of Missions of the US Embassy in Suva, Fiji, Anton Grebel (left), and Tonga’s Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sami Waipulu (centre), listen to remarks by the US representative. Groundbreaking ceremony for the US Embassy in Tonga on May 10 during US President Tom Armbruster. (US Embassy Nuku’alofa)

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The new embassy paves the way for further engagement with Tonga, Miller said, including a US diplomatic presence there.

“We look forward to engaging more fully with our friends in Tonga and the wider region,” Mary C Damore, the US ambassador to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu, said in a tweet.

During the opening ceremony held on 10 May, Anton Grebel, deputy director of missions at the US Embassy in Suva, Fiji, described the partnership with the United States as “rooted in common values ​​and close cooperation”.

The embassy opened less than a year after Vice President Harris announced in July 2022 that the United States and Tonga had discussed American interest in opening an embassy. In August, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with King Tupou VI of Tonga in Nuku’alofa to celebrate 50 years of bilateral relations.

In September 2022, the Biden administration released the first US Strategy for the Pacific Partnership (PDF, 279kb), outlining steps for greater US engagement in the Pacific. The United States has since opened an embassy in the Solomon Islands, moved the US embassy in Papua New Guinea to new facilities in Port Moresby, and announced its intention to open an embassy in Vanuatu after notifying Congress. Is.

The United States is also continuing talks with Kiribati about opening a new embassy on Tarawa.

From left: Deputy Director of Mission Anton Grebel, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Tongan Crown Prince Tuputo’ Ulukalala, Prime Minister Siasi Sowaleni and Foreign Minister Fekitamoeloa ‘Utoikamanu in Nuku’alofa (Tonga) on 5 August 2022. (US) Embassy in Nuku’alofa)

Permanent relationship

Cultural and historical ties between the United States and Tonga date back to a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation signed on October 2, 1886. Tonga has welcomed over 1,700 United States Peace Corps volunteers since 1967.

There are over 50,000 Tongan Americans living in the United States. They are part of a diverse community of Asian Americans, Hawaiian Americans, and Pacific Islanders who make dynamic contributions to American culture.

Recent cooperation between the United States and Tonga includes a response to a volcanic eruption off the coast of Tonga in January 2022, which triggered tsunami waves and destroyed homes and infrastructure. The United States has provided $2.6 million in humanitarian aid and deployed satellite communications and early warning equipment.

Bottom view of the national reserve bank of tonga building with two flags flying in front of it against a cloudy sky. (us embassy nuku'alofa)The US Embassy in Nuku’alofa, which opened on 9 May, is located in the National Reserve Bank of Tonga building. (US Embassy Nuku’alofa)

The US Embassy Nuku’alofa, which opened on 9 May, is located in the National Reserve Bank of Tonga building. (US Embassy Nuku’alofa) In September 2022, President Biden announced $810 million in expanded programs for the Pacific Islands to address the consequences of climate change and strengthen early warning systems for extreme weather events Contains $130 million.

“The United States is a proud Pacific nation and has a long-standing commitment to the Pacific Island nations,” Harris told the Pacific Island Forum in Washington in July 2022.

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