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It is surrounded by Fiji and Wallis and Futuna (France) to the northwest, Samoa to the northeast, Niue to the east (which is the nearest foreign territory), Kermadec (part of New Zealand) to the southwest, and New Caledonia (France) and Vanuatu to the farther west.It is about 1,800 kilometres (1,100 mi) from New Zealand's North Island.While exposed to colonial pressures, Tonga has always governed itself, which makes it unique in the Pacific.
Tonga joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970 (atypically as a country with its own monarch rather than that of the United Kingdom, similar to Malaysia, Lesotho, and Swaziland), and became a member of the United Nations in September 1999.From 1900 to 1970, Tonga had British protected state status, with the United Kingdom looking after its foreign affairs under a Treaty of Friendship.The country never relinquished its sovereignty to any foreign power.The pro-democracy movement in Tonga promotes reforms, including better representation in the Parliament for the majority of commoners, and better accountability in matters of state.An overthrow of the monarchy is not part of the movement and the institution of monarchy continues to hold popular support, even while reforms are advocated.
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Under the protection of Britain, Tonga maintained its sovereignty, and remained the only Pacific nation to retain its monarchical government (unlike Tahiti and Hawaiʻi).