Flag of Tonga

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The archipelago of "The Friendly Islands" was united into a Polynesian kingdom in 1845. It became a constitutional monarchy in 1875 and a British protectorate in 1900. Tonga acquired its independence in 1970 and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It remains the only monarchy in the Pacific.


Oceania, archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand

Geographic coordinates:

20 00 S, 175 00 W


total: 748 sq km
water: 30 sq km
land: 718 sq km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm


tropical; modified by trade winds; warm season (December to May), cool season (May to December)


most islands have limestone base formed from uplifted coral formation; others have limestone overlying volcanic base

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Kao Island 1,033 m

Natural resources:

fish, fertile soil

Land use:

arable land: 23.61%
permanent crops: 43.06%
other: 33.33% (2001)

Irrigated land:

NA sq km

Natural hazards:

cyclones (October to April); earthquakes and volcanic activity on Fonuafo'ou

Environment - current issues:

deforestation results as more and more land is being cleared for agriculture and settlement; some damage to coral reefs from starfish and indiscriminate coral and shell collectors; overhunting threatens native sea turtle populations

Geography - note:

archipelago of 169 islands (36 inhabited)


110,237 (July 2004 est.)

Ethnic groups:

Polynesian, Europeans about 300


Christian (Free Wesleyan Church claims over 30,000 adherents)


Tongan, English

Government type:

hereditary constitutional monarchy



Administrative divisions:

3 island groups; Ha'apai, Tongatapu, Vava'u


4 June 1970 (from UK protectorate)

Legal system:

based on English law

Economy - overview:

Tonga, a small, open, South Pacific island economy, has a narrow export base in agricultural goods. Squash, coconuts, bananas, and vanilla beans are the main crops, and agricultural exports make up two-thirds of total exports. The country must import a high proportion of its food, mainly from New Zealand. Tourism is the second-largest source of hard currency earnings following remittances. The country remains dependent on external aid and remittances from Tongan communities overseas to offset its trade deficit. The government is emphasizing the development of the private sector, especially the encouragement of investment, and is committing increased funds for health and education. Tonga has a reasonably sound basic infrastructure and well-developed social services. High unemployment among the young and the continuing upturn in inflation are major issues facing the government.

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture 65% (1997 est.)

Unemployment rate:

13.3% (1996 est.)

Agriculture - products:

squash, coconuts, copra, bananas, vanilla beans, cocoa, coffee, ginger, black pepper; fish


tourism, fishing

Exports - commodities:

squash, fish, vanilla beans, root crops

Exports - partners:

US 50%, Japan 35.7%, Italy 3.6% (2003 est.)

Imports - commodities:

foodstuffs, machinery and transport equipment, fuels, chemicals

Imports - partners:

New Zealand 43%, Fiji 22%, Australia 11%, US 6% (2003 est.)

Currency code:


Telephones - main lines in use:

11,200 (2002)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

3,400 (2002)

Telephone system:

general assessment: NA
domestic: NA
international: country code - 676; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) (1996)


total: 680 km
paved: 184 km
unpaved: 496 km (1999 est.)

Ports and harbors:

Neiafu, Nuku'alofa, Pangai

Merchant marine:

total: 40 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 136,977 GRT/200,751 DWT
foreign-owned: Albania 1, Australia 4, Brazil 1, Cyprus 1, Egypt 1, Greece 1, Lebanon 1, Liberia 1, Marshall Islands 1, Norway 1, Panama 2, Romania 1, Russia 1, Saudi Arabia 1, Switzerland 3, Syria 1, United (2003 est.)
by type: bulk 3, cargo 21, chemical tanker 2, container 1, liquefied gas 4, petroleum tanker 5, refrigerated cargo 1, roll on/roll off 1, specialized tanker 1, vehicle carrier 1


6 (2003 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2003 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 1 (2003 est.)

Military branches:

Tonga Defense Services: Ground Forces (Royal Marines, Royal Guard), Maritime Force (including Air Wing)