Island kingdom in the S Pacific Ocean, 2,000 mi SE of Sydney, Australia. Its capital is Nukualofa. The only independent kingdom remaining in the South Pacific, it consists of more than 150 island s. By 1643 all the island s had been discovered by the Dutch, and they were visited in 1773 and 1777 by Captain James Cook. The 19th-century civil wars in Tonga were followed by the accession of King George Tupou I, who unified the island s and gave them a constitution.
Queen Salote Tupou III reigned from 1918 through 1965, and was succeeded by King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV. Tonga became a British protectorate in 1900 and was granted full independence on June 4, 1970. Since the late 1980s, Tongans have agitated for democratic reforms, but the king has generally opposed any change that would weaken the monarchy. In 1999 Tonga joined the United Nations. In 2001 there was a financial scand al where $37 million in government funds had disappeared as a result of investment in a Nevada asset management company. Attempts to amend the constitution to limit free speech and limit the press were voided by the courts. While the Tongans are proud of their long history of local rule, there has been some movement toward the democratic reform of the monarchy.