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[Matangi Tonga] Pacific Defense Ministers Favor Joint Military Exercises

‘Povai Endeavour’ to help coordinate operations

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NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, May 6, 2013) – Fiji will be welcomed to participate in the annual South Pacific Defence Ministers meeting once Fiji holds a credible general election and returns to democratic rule, the Australian Defence Minister, Hon. Stephen Smith said in Tonga on May 2, after the regional ministers agreed to a higher level of military cooperation on regional security issues.

The Fiji issue was discussed during the inaugural Defence Ministers meeting, at the Scenic Hotel in Fua’amotu last week.

New Zealand Defence Minister, Hon. Dr. Jonathan Coleman also pointed out that his government’s position on Fiji has been very clear, that they would like to see Fiji fulfill the criteria set for its 2014 general election.

At a joint press conference held by Defence Ministers of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Tonga, with representatives from Chile and France, they said the meeting will be held annually. The 2014 meeting will be held in Papua New Guinea, and Vanuatu will be invited to be an observer member. Chile also proposed for Peru to be considered as a potential future participant.

It was also agreed for Tonga and Australia to report the outcome of the inaugural meeting of the South Pacific Defence Ministers to the Pacific Islands Forum meeting next year.

Tonga navy base

The Tongan Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Lord Tu’ivakano said that discussions during the one-day meeting focused on how participating states could work together on security missions in the region, and across the world. He said that their partnership reflected a common interest to maintain and strengthen security in the region, including maritime security and disaster relief activities.

Hon. Stephen Smith said he has confirmed to Lord Tu’ivakano Australia’s ongoing support to Tonga Defence, through infrastructure improvement to its naval base, and will next year provide a landing craft to aid Tonga in disaster relief.

Cooperative military exercise

The Defence Ministers in a joint communiqué said to further enhance cooperation and develop greater inter-operability between their militaries, they agreed to establish a new framework for a cooperative military exercises to be known as ‘Povai Endeavour.’

“The framework will be an overarching mechanism that will help coordinate the large number of exercises and activities already in the region, to ensure the activities build on the capability of regional militaries to respond to full range of security, stabilization, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief challenges in the region.”

The Ministers also agreed to consider broadening participation of existing activities and exercises to include forces from participants’ militaries. This could also include representatives from Pacific Islands that lack military forces with the intention to build their awareness of regional security operations and capabilities, said Ministers.

Australia’s Pacific Patrol Boat Program

At the same time, Australia announced its commitment to implementing a Pacific Maritime Security Program as a follow on from the Pacific Patrol Boat Program which will end in 2018.

Australia will also support regional maritime security by holding a regional aerial surveillance trial with Pacific Island countries and provide equipment to the Forum Fisheries Agency to strengthen the capacity of the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre in Honiara.

The meeting, attended by Defence Ministers of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga with representatives from France and Chile; and observers from the United Kingdom and the USA began on May 1 with an audience with King Tupou VI at the Royal Palace Nuku’alofa.

Matangi Tonga Magazine: www.matangitonga.to/home/
Copyright © 2013 Matangi Tonga. All Rights Reserved

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