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Tonga reportedly chased off Fiji warship at Minerva Reefs

HONOLULU (Pacific Islands Report, June 13, 2011) – Tongan gunboats on Friday reportedly chased off a Fijian warship at the disputed Minerva Reefs, about 900 miles north of New Zealand.

The confrontation reportedly has triggered plans by the Fiji navy to return to the uninhabited reefs with three armed ships.

The reefs have long been claimed by Tonga but Fiji also has laid claim to the atolls and recently damaged navigation equipment set up on the reefs by Tonga.

According to Pacific journalist Michael Field, reporting for Stuff, two Tonga patrol boats arriving at the atolls to repair the equipment chased a Fiji warship in one of the lagoons.

Neither country has yet officially acknowledged the incident, he reports.

Field cites a blog - Coup Four and a Half – as saying three Fiji Navy ships were being prepared at Walu Bay, near Suva, for a return mission to Minerva. The ships were to have 30 crew each to reclaim control of the remote reefs.

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