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They arrived into port to the trumpets of the Tongan military brass band.
The HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Melbourne docking at the port of Nuku’alofa was a sign of strength and stability, and it needed to be, as China extends its economic reach into the Pacific.
In Tonga, external debt to China represented nearly a third of its gross domestic product in 2011.
The country now facing a certain level of debt distress, one of the risks of reaching into Beijing’s deep pockets.
Now Australia’s biggest warship is leading the charge on one of the most significant military missions through the South Pacific, as part of the Indo-Pacific Endeavour.
Defence Minister Marise Payne said the IPE 18 is one of the Australian Defence Force’s most important annual activities and represents a major contribution to regional security and stability.
As a demonstration to the island nation of Tonga of that partnership, Payne handed over five Australian-gifted Unimog vehicles, reflecting Australia commitment to the local armed forces.
The official handing over took place onboard the HMAS Adelaide, Australia’s most sophisticated helicopter landing ship.
The Canberra-class assault ship weighs 27,800 tonnes and measures 230 metres in length.
The ship is designed to provide medical and humanitarian assistance during regional emergencies, with a 50-bed hospital, and the ability to produce 156,000 litres of fresh water a day.
It also has five gyms, a basketball court and a galley kitchen which churns out 6000 meals a day.
The 200-metre flights deck can carry up to 12 helicopters and 110 military vehicles.
SOURCE: 9 NEWS/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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