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Map Courtesy CIA World Factbook

The Republic of Palau (also spelled Belau) is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, located some 500 km east of the Philippines. Having emerged from United Nations trusteeship (administered by the United States of America) in 1994, it is one of the world's youngest and least populated nations.

The first inhabitants of Palau, probably from Indonesia, settled on the islands as early as 1000 BC. Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos first sighted the islands in 1543, but European attempts to settle on or trade with the islands weren't started until the 18th century, by the British. Spain colonized the islands in the late 19th century, but sold it to Germany in 1899. Japan seized the islands at the start of World War I, and gained a mandate over them until the end of the Second World War, when the islands came under control of the United States as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The Palauans voted in 1979 not to join the Federated States of Micronesia, and chose independence instead. After a long period of transition, including the violent deaths of two presidents (Haruo Remeliik in 1985 by assassination and Lazarus Salii in 1988 by suicide), Palau voted in 1994 to become freely associated with the U.S. while retaining their independence. This "Compact of Free Association" was a hotly debated issue that Palauans voted down more than ten times since the 1970s as provisions in the compact allow the U.S. broad powers such as control of 51% of the island in time of national emergency. The U.S. especially desired control of the Marianas Trench for submarine testing, as the trench is the deepest in the world.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Palau".