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Tongan King Tupou VI started a state visit to China as the two countries will witness the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties in November.
During the nine-day visit, the king will hold talks with President Xi Jinping and meet with Premier Li Keqiang, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said earlier this week, adding that besides Beijing, the king will also visit the provinces of Zhejiang, Hainan and Guangdong.
The visit comes less than a month after the Tongan government issued a statement responding to an Australian newspaper"s article that said China"s lending to Pacific Island countries is leading to debt repayment issues.
Tonga has benefitted remarkably from China"s assistance, the Tongan government said, adding that ties between the two countries will remain strong.
Tonga confirmed its appreciation of China"s assistance following comments in January by Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Australia"s minister for international development and the Pacific, that China is constructing "useless" infrastructure in Pacific Island countries.
Tongan Minister of Justice Sione Vuna Fā’otusia, quoted by the Kaniva Tonga website, said he felt "sad" by Fierravanti-Wells" comments, and that China is building infrastructure "to assist in the economic development of the Pacific countries".
Tonga is a member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and one of eight Pacific island countries that established a strategic partnership with China in 2014.
With China"s assistance, it has witnessed the construction or renovation of a number of infrastructure projects, including roads, schools and a central business district in its capital Nuku’alofa.
China"s assistance to Pacific island countries, including grants and loans, "are provided only after full consultation, careful evaluation and scientific studies of the project proposals have been completed", Wang Baodong, Chinese ambassador to Tonga said in an article published in Matangi Tonga Online in January.
Such assistance has significantly fueled economic and social development of these countries, Wang said.
"No one knows better than the people and governments of the Pacific island countries on whether China"s assistance is productive or not," the ambassador said, urging other countries not to "act as a mentor" in this regard.