By Charlotte Greenfield
PORTMORESBY (Reuters) – Tonga has signed up to China’s Belt and Road initiative and has received a reprieve from Beijing on its onerous debt repayment schedule, an official from the Pacific island nation told Reuters.
Lopeti Senituli, political advisor to Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva, told Reuters by email on Sunday that Tonga had signed a Belt and Road memorandum of understanding, and that the concessional loan had been deferred for five years.
Tonga is one of eight island nations in the South Pacific that owe significant debt to China. The deferment came just as Tonga was set to commence principal repayments on the debt, which is expected to put severe strain on its finances.
China’s ministry of foreign affairs did not immediately respond to request for comment on Sunday.
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield in PORTMORESBY; Editing by Sam Holmes)