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Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga, is a Polynesian sovereign state and an archipelago comprising 176 islands with a surface area of about 750 square kilometres (290 sq mi) scattered over 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) of the southern Pacific Ocean. Fifty-two of these islands are inhabited with its 103,000 people.

 

Lengthwise, the kingdom stretches over a distance of about 800 kilometres (500 mi) in a north-south line located about a third of the distance from New Zealand to Hawaii. It is surrounded by Fiji and Wallis and Futuna (France) to the northwest, the Samoas to the northeast, Niue to the east, Kermadec to the southwest (the latter both to New Zealand) and New Caledonia (France) and Vanuatu to a more distant west.

 

Tonga also became known as the Friendly Islands because of the congenial reception accorded to Captain James Cook on his first visit there in 1773. He happened to arrive at the time of the ʻinasi festival, the yearly donation of the first fruits to the Tuʻi Tonga (the islands' paramount chief) and so received an invitation to the festivities. According to the writer William Mariner, the chiefs wanted to kill Cook during the gathering, but could not agree on a plan.

 

Tonga is one of the few countries in the world that have successfully resisted European colonization, and the Polynesian kingdom has never lost its sovereignty to a foreign power.Tonga is the only Kingdom in the South Pacific and in 2010, it took a decisive step towards becoming a fully functioning constitutional monarchy, after legislative reforms paved the way for its first partial representative elections.


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