Tonga, Fiji dispute again over Minerva Reef claims of ownership: reports

08:49, June 13, 2011      

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Tonga and Fiji are believed to be heading for another standoff over Minerva Reef in the next 12 hours or so, local websites quoted bloggers as saying on Sunday.

The Fiji government maintains that the controversial Minerva Reef is inside Fiji's exclusive economic zone determined by geographical coordinates. However, the Tongan government claims it too and had started to build a navigational beacon there.

Fiji intelligence sources were quoted as revealing on Sunday that three Fijian naval ships carrying about 30 officers have been dispatched from the capital of Suva and are on their way to Minerva Reef.

Reports from New Zealand have also said the two countries engaged in a standoff on Friday, after the Fijian navy again destroyed Tongan navigational lights at the entrance to the lagoon.

It was reported two Tongan navy ships were sent to replace the equipment and to reassert the kingdom's claim to the territory. Though the Fiji navy ship left the area, it is believed a military conflict was only narrowly averted.

Fiji intelligence sources, however, said three Fiji naval boats are heading to the lagoon to join the one that engaged Tonga on Friday.

The sources say Fiji pulled its lone naval boat back but it is in a holding pattern and waiting for support.

Earlier on May 27, the Fijian government stated that the controversial Minerva Reef is inside Fiji's exclusive economic zone and this is determined by geographical coordinates, after the Tongan government claimed that the reef belonged to them and had started building a navigational beacon in the area.

Relationships between Tonga and Fiji have also been sour lately because of inaction by Tonga on Fiji's extradition papers of Roko Ului Mara, the fugitive ex-soldier now in Australia that escaped from Fiji after being charged with sedition.

Source: Xinhua
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