2019 New Year Greeting from Ambassador Ishii

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Fakamonū'ia atu ai pē ′a e ta'ufo'ou.

Happy New Year everyone. It is now more than a year, since I have been assigned in October 2017, as the Ambassador of Japan to Tonga.

Looking back on 2018, you might feel that a year goes by so fast! Especially for those who are here in Tonga, the memory of Cyclone Gita in February must still be too vivid. I remembered how all round, the scenery over just a night changed drastically, and it was completely destroyed. In response to the devastations and damages, the Government of Tonga started the restoration and reconstruction works with relief supplies from various countries and organizations. Through that experience, I totally realized the value and importance of water and electric power.

These were some of the notable events that happened in Tonga during the year 2018.
In January, Hon. Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva began his second term as the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Tonga, following the general election in November 2017. After Cyclone Gita ravaged the islands of Tongatapu and ‘Eua in February, 2018-19 Parliament Session was opened at the end of May, and the Parliament passed Tonga’s biggest national budget for the FY 2018-19 in June. The official celebration for HM King Tupou VI’s birthday was held in the Ha’apai Island group in July, and then in September, HM King Tupou VI attended the 73rd UN General Assembly in NY, whereby HM’s speech greatly focused on climate change. To wrap up the year, in October, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited Tonga.

The relationship between Tonga and Japan was advanced further with the following bilateral and multilateral events during the year.
In May, the 8th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM8) was held in Japan, where Hon. Semisi Sika, Deputy Prime Minister, and his delegation attended. During his stay in Japan, the Exchange of Notes (E/N) documents for the major Grant Aid Assistance from Japan, namely, the Nationwide Early Warning System (NEWS), was signed. Following that summit, in early June, a new domestic wharf and terminal named “Taufa'ahau Tupou IV” was commissioned by King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau’u Tuku’aho. Their Majesties also graced, in September, the ground breaking for another project, the Wind Power Generation System. And please don’t forget that Hon. Mr. Iwao Horii, who was then Japan’s Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, visited Tonga in August as well.

I observe that the friendship between our countries and our peoples, continues to become stronger and closer, and its foundations are multi-layered. I have identified these three elements as significant factors in performing key roles in our warm relations.
Firstly, there is a spiritual affinity between the peoples of Tonga and Japan, based upon the cordial relations between the Imperial Family and the Royal Family, and the similarity in the pronunciation of our vowels as well as our interconnections as island nations surrounded by the great Pacific Ocean. Secondly, the mutual understanding and cooperation between our countries are always echoed in the Economic and Political arena. And thirdly, our relations with the Tongan Society are acknowledged from leaders to the grass root level, and further strengthened by Cultural relationships like Soroban, Japanese language studies in Tonga, Sumo, and Rugby.

I greatly aspire and stay committed to further strengthening our relations into the future, as significant milestones in our friendships are attributed to our predecessors, whose toils and efforts have built a foundation for our relations. I am truly grateful for the groundwork that they laid, which I hope we will not take for granted as naturally grown, and with all of your help I will do my best, to continue to uphold and encourage our warm relationship, a few more steps further.
In this regard, I wish to reiterate that our Japan-Tonga relations are reciprocal but not unilateral, and it is such two way flow of mutual respect and understanding that reinforces our enduring ties.
Now, I wish to conclude with hopes that the year 2019 will arrive with new opportunities. Japan is ready to host the 2019 Rugby Union World Cup and the upcoming and much anticipated Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics as well.
I wish to further enhance our precious relations towards greater cooperation in the future, particularly towards the Golden Jubilee of our diplomatic ties in 2020. It is my sincere wish that after 50 years from now, our successors will look back at the milestone of our 50th anniversary with appreciation, just as we prepare to open the doorway for the beginning of our new half-century chapter in 2020.

May good health and lifetimes of happiness bless Your Lives always, and may there be prosperity for all the people of Tonga and Japan.

Fakatauānge ke mou ma'u ha ta'ufo'ou monū'ia.

Tetsuya ISHII
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
of Japan to the Kingdom of Tonga