An academic says Tonga's invitation to participate in the Pacific's largest maritime exercise shows its relationship with the United States is forging ahead.
Tonga is the only small island state among 26 invited nations for the 26th Rim of the Pacific maritime exercise, directed by the US Navy.
The director of the Pasifika Centre at Massey University, Malakai Koloamatangi, said the US decision to exclude China from the exercise is disappointing as Tonga has close ties with Beijing.
He said Fiji's absence was a surprise too.
"Tonga's foreign policy of course is that it wants to be a friend of everyone, and enemy of none. So with that and Tonga's military has been quite behaving of itself, in the sense that it doesn't get involved in politics, for example as say perhaps the Fiji military forces. So I suppose this is a way of maybe rewarding Tonga."
The exercise is taking place around the Hawaii and southern California up until August the 2nd.