UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Tonga has applied for membership in the United Nations, the third South Pacific country this year seeking to join the world body.

The U.N. Security Council on Thursday referred Tonga's application to its committee on admissions.

Last month, the council recommended membership for the South Pacific nations of Nauru and Kiribati. If approved by the General Assembly, they will become the 186th and 187th members of the United Nations.

The Security Council held a formal meeting Thursday in response to a letter from Tonga's government, pledging to accept the obligations in the U.N. Charter.

Tonga, a South Pacific chain of some 150 islands located 2,350 miles east of Australia, is a member of the British Commonwealth and has a government based on the British parliamentary model.

A nation of less than 100,000 people, it has long depended on foreign aid, remittances sent by Tongans living overseas, tourism and exports of small amounts of fish, fruit and vegetables.