Australia, Tonga Reaffirm Joint Defense Relationship

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Improvements to local defense capabilities in the works

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Sept. 26, 2012) – At the Australia-Tonga Defence Cooperation Talks 2012, held today in Nuku'alofa, Australia reaffirmed its continued assistance to the Tonga Defence Services (TDS) through a number of projects, activities and exercises planned for the next 12 months.

Brigadier-General Tau'aika 'Uta'atu the Commander of the Tonga Defence Services at the TDS Headquarter, Sene hosted the meeting with Mr. Tyson Sara, the Assistant Secretary for Pacific and East Timor, International Policy Division, who led Australia's delegation.

Australia's High Commissioner to Tonga HE Mr. Thomas Roth also attended the talks this morning.

Mr. Sara said the talks confirmed a large number of bilateral projects and activities for the next 12 months, when he said Australia would be working closely with the TDS Rural Development Unit to build a new accommodation block at HMNB Masefield, a project that may also include a New Zealand Defence Force element.

"Our two countries will also cooperate on the refurbishment of TDS communications and information technology capabilities, extending the TDS simulated weapons training facility and undertaking a range of in-Tonga and in-Australia exercises (including the ADF-led Exercise Longreach), which is a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief planning activity, he said.

Australia would also continue to provide extensive training support to the TDS, and maintain their assistance to the TDS Navy under the Pacific Patrol Boat Program.

Bilateral

The annual talks also reviewed achievements over a wide range of cooperation activities in the past 12-months of bilateral defence cooperation between Tonga and Australia.

These included the establishment for the first time of a permanent Defence Adviser in Tonga, the refurbishment of berthing and shore power facilities at HMNB Masefield, enduring training support for TDS members in Australia in which TDS participates in 29 separate courses and continued Australian support to the TDS Navy through the Pacific Patrol Boat Program.

Tonga and Australia also discussed operational and security issues of mutual concern and provided updates on operational deployments. Members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and TDS continue to work closely as part of the Combined Task Force in RAMSI, he said.

The Australian delegation included Commander Peter Steel the Australian Defence Adviser, South Pacific, Mr. Jon Longhurst Assistant Director New Zealand & Pacific, International Policy Division, Mr. Ian Smith Director Pacific Patrol Boat Program Systems Office and Jane McFarlane Assistant Director Defence Cooperation Liaison Office.

The Tonga Defence delegates were Lt. Col Kuli Fakalolo, Commander Sione Fifita, Lt. Col Ve'ehala, Lt. Commander Taniela Tuita and Major Sakalia.

The Australian delegation has a week-long program in Nuku'alofa before they depart on Friday, September 28.

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