A republic comprising over 200 islands in the western Pacific, only eight of which are inhabited.
The islands are geographically part of the Caroline Islands. The largest island is Babelthaup. Some of the islands are low-lying coral atolls but others are mountainous. The climate is tropical.
The main economic activities are fishing, farming, and tourism. Palau depends on aid from the USA.
Spain acquired the Caroline Islands in 1886 but sold them to Germany in 1899, having been defeated in the Spanish–American War. Palau was occupied by Japan during World War I and remained under Japanese control until 1944, when it was captured by Allied forces. The islands were administered by the USA as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific from 1947. The islanders voted against becoming part of the Federated States of Micronesia in 1978 and became autonomous in 1981. Palau gained full independence and joined the United Nations in 1994. Under a compact of free association the USA controls the defence of Palau, and has nuclear storage facilities on the islands.
488 sq km (188 sq miles)
1 US dollar = 100 cents
Roman Catholic 40.8%; Protestant 24.8%; traditional beliefs 24.8%
Palauan 69.9%; Asian 25.5%
Palauan, English (both official)
UN; Pacific Islands Forum; Secretariat of the Pacific Community
Subjects: World History.