Sat, 28 May 2022

Tokyo [Japan], January 27 (ANI): After the eruption of an underwater volcano in Tonga, the Japanese government is working to provide aid to the South Pacific nation, aimed at countering Beijing's growing influence in the region.

China is increasing its influence by providing infrastructure assistance to nations in the South Pacific region. Japan intends to counter Beijing's efforts with the aim of realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific, according to Japan News.

Further, Japan announced an emergency aid package of more than USD 1 million on January 19, the day after receiving a request from Tonga.

Earlier, a decision was made to dispatch a Self-Defense Forces plane on the morning of January 20 and it left Japan that evening.

Also, the Tongan prime minister, foreign minister and other government officials were at the airport to welcome the arrival of the plane, with a banner expressing their gratitude to Japan.

On Monday, a transport ship carrying more relief supplies left the Maritime Self-Defense Force's base in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture.

Sixty high-pressure washers to remove volcanic ash and 50 wheeled carts are scheduled to arrive around the middle of next month.

On the other hand, Japan Self Defence Force aircraft will be based at an air force facility in Australia.

The Japanese and Australian governments are rushing to provide assistance to Tonga partly because of China's presence in the region.

Earlier, Tonga established diplomatic relations with China after severing diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1998.

According to the World Bank and other organizations, Tonga's external debt in 2020 was USD 194.3 million with China accounting for about 60 per cent of the total.

China is advancing its maritime expansion through economic cooperation to create a huge economic zone under its Belt and Road Initiative, as reported by Japan News.

Beijing is involved in the construction of port facilities in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, which also has a high percentage of foreign debt owed to China. The Japanese government has increased its vigilance because of fears China may use the port and other facilities for military purposes in the future, according to Japan News. (ANI)

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