Palau [pä lou′]
country consisting of a group of islands in the W Pacific Ocean: formerly part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the island group became an independent republic in 1994: 630 sq mi (1,632 sq km); pop. 15,000; cap. Koror

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Pa·lau (pä-louʹ, pə-) also Be·lau (bə-) Formerly Pe·lew (pə-lo͞oʹ, pē-).
A group of about 200 volcanic islands and islets in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean. When the Carolines became part of the Federated States of Micronesia in 1978, Palau chose to form a republic in free association with the United States, which became effective in 1994. The capital is Koror. Population: 16,952.

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Introduction Palau
Background: After three decades as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific under US administration, this westernmost cluster of the Caroline Islands opted for independence in 1978 rather than join the Federated States of Micronesia. A Compact of Free Association with the US was approved in 1986, but not ratified until 1993. It entered into force the following year when the islands gained independence. Geography Palau -
Location: Oceania, group of islands in the North Pacific Ocean, southeast of the Philippines
Geographic coordinates: 7 30 N, 134 30 E
Map references: Oceania
Area: total: 458 sq km water: 0 sq km land: 458 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly more than 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 1,519 km
Maritime claims: exclusive fishing zone: 12 NM territorial sea: 3 NM extended fishing zone: 200 NM
Climate: wet season May to November; hot and humid
Terrain: varying geologically from the high, mountainous main island of Babelthuap to low, coral islands usually fringed by large barrier reefs
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m highest point: Mount Ngerchelchuus 242 m
Natural resources: forests, minerals (especially gold), marine products, deep-seabed minerals
Land use: arable land: 21.74% permanent crops: 0% other: 78.26% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: NA sq km
Natural hazards: typhoons (June to December) Environment - current issues: inadequate facilities for disposal of solid waste; threats to the marine ecosystem from sand and coral dredging, illegal fishing practices, and overfishing Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: westernmost archipelago in the Caroline chain, consists of six island groups totaling more than 300 islands; includes World War II battleground of Beliliou (Peleliu) and world-famous rock islands People Palau
Population: 19,409 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 26.8% (male 2,678; female 2,522) 15-64 years: 68.6% (male 7,241; female 6,074) 65 years and over: 4.6% (male 426; female 468) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.61% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 19.32 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 7.11 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 3.86 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.19 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.91 male(s)/ female total population: 1.14 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 16.21 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 69.19 years female: 72.5 years (2002 est.) male: 66.07 years
Total fertility rate: 2.47 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: NA% HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Palauan(s) adjective: Palauan
Ethnic groups: Palauan (Micronesian with Malayan and Melanesian admixtures) 70%, Asian (mainly Filipinos, followed by Chinese, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese) 28%, white 2% (2000 est.)
Religions: Christian (Roman Catholics 49%, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Assembly of God, the Liebenzell Mission, and Latter-Day Saints), Modekngei religion (one- third of the population observes this religion which is indigenous to Palau)
Languages: English and Palauan official in all states except Sonsoral (Sonsorolese and English are official), Tobi (Tobi and English are official), and Angaur (Angaur, Japanese, and English are official)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 92% male: 93% female: 90% (1980 est.) Government Palau
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Palau conventional short form: Palau local short form: Belau former: Palau District (Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands) local long form: Beluu er a Belau
Government type: constitutional government in free association with the US; the Compact of Free Association entered into force 1 October 1994
Capital: Koror; note - a new capital is being built about 20 km northeast of Koror Administrative divisions: 16 states; Aimeliik, Airai, Angaur, Hatobohei, Kayangel, Koror, Melekeok, Ngaraard, Ngarchelong, Ngardmau, Ngatpang, Ngchesar, Ngeremlengui, Ngiwal, Peleliu, Sonsoral
Independence: 1 October 1994 (from the US- administered UN Trusteeship)
National holiday: Constitution Day, 9 July (1979)
Constitution: 1 January 1981
Legal system: based on Trust Territory laws, acts of the legislature, municipal, common, and customary laws
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Tommy Esang REMENGESAU, Jr. (since 19 January 2001) and Vice President Sandra PIERANTOZZI (since 19 January 2001); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government head of government: President Tommy Esang REMENGESAU, Jr. (since 19 January 2001) and Vice President Sandra PIERANTOZZI (since 19 January 2001); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government cabinet: Cabinet elections: president and vice president elected on separate tickets by popular vote for four- year terms; election last held 7 November 2000 (next to be held NA November 2004) election results: Tommy Esang REMENGESAU, Jr. elected president; percent of vote - Tommy Esang REMENGESAU, Jr. 53%, Peter SUGIYAMA 46%; Sandra PIERANTOZZI elected vice president; percent of vote - Sandra PIERANTOZZI 52%, Alan SEID 45%
Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament or Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK) consists of the Senate (9 seats; members elected by popular vote on a population basis to serve four-year terms) and the House of Delegates (16 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) elections: Senate - last held 7 November 2000 (next to be held NA November 2004); House of Delegates - last held 7 November 2000 (next to be held NA November 2004) election results: Senate - percent of vote - NA%; seats - independents 9; House of Delegates - percent of vote - NA%; seats - independents 16
Judicial branch: Supreme Court; National Court; Court of Common Pleas Political parties and leaders: none Political pressure groups and NA
leaders: International organization ACP, ESCAP, FAO, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM,
participation: IDA, IFC, IFRCS, IMF, IOC, Sparteca, SPC, SPF, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, WHO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Hersey KYOTA FAX: [1] (202) 452-6281 telephone: [1] (202) 452-6814 chancery: 1150 18th Street NW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20036 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: the Ambassador to
US: the Philippines is accredited to Palau; Charge d'Affaires Ronald A. HARMS embassy: address NA, Koror mailing address: P. O. Box 6028, Republic of Palau 96940 telephone: [680] 488-2920, 2990 FAX: [680] 488-2911
Flag description: light blue with a large yellow disk (representing the moon) shifted slightly to the hoist side Economy Palau -
Economy - overview: The economy consists primarily of tourism, subsistence agriculture and fishing. The government is the major employer of the work force, relying heavily on financial assistance from the US. Business and tourist arrivals numbered 50,000 in FY00/01. The population enjoys a per capita income twice that of the Philippines and much of Micronesia. Long-run prospects for the key tourist sector have been greatly bolstered by the expansion of air travel in the Pacific, the rising prosperity of leading East Asian countries, and the willingness of foreigners to finance infrastructure development.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $174 million (2001 est.) note: GDP numbers reflect US spending
GDP - real growth rate: 1% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $9,000 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: NA% industry: NA% services: NA% Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3.4% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 8,300 (1999) Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 20%, industry NA%, services NA% (1990)
Unemployment rate: 2.3% (2000 est.)
Budget: revenues: $57.7 million expenditures: $80.8 million, including capital expenditures of $17.1 million (FY98/99 est.)
Industries: tourism, craft items (from shell, wood, pearls), construction, garment making Industrial production growth rate: NA%
Agriculture - products: coconuts, copra, cassava (tapioca), sweet potatoes
Exports: $11 million (f.o.b., 1999)
Exports - commodities: shellfish, tuna, copra, garments
Exports - partners: US, Japan, Singapore
Imports: $126 million (f.o.b., 1999)
Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment, fuels, metals; foodstuffs
Imports - partners: US
Debt - external: $0 (FY99/00) Economic aid - recipient: $155.8 million (1995); note - the Compact of Free Association with the US, entered into after the end of the UN trusteeship on 1 October 1994, provides Palau with up to $700 million in US aid over 15 years in return for furnishing military facilities
Currency: US dollar (USD)
Currency code: USD
Exchange rates: the US dollar is used
Fiscal year: 1 October - 30 September Communications Palau Telephones - main lines in use: 6,700 (2002) Telephones - mobile cellular: 1,000 (2002)
Telephone system: general assessment: NA domestic: NA international: satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 4, shortwave 1 (2002)
Radios: 12,000 (1997) Television broadcast stations: 1 (1997)
Televisions: 11,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .pw Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2002) Transportation Palau Railways: 0 km Highways: total: 61 km paved: 36 km unpaved: 25 km
Waterways: none
Ports and harbors: Koror
Merchant marine: none (2002 est.) Airports: 3 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 1 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2001)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 2 1,524 to 2,437 m: 2 (2001) Military Palau
Military branches: NA Military expenditures - dollar $NA
figure: Military expenditures - percent of NA%
Military - note: defense is the responsibility of the US; under a Compact of Free Association between Palau and the US, the US military is granted access to the islands for 50 years Transnational Issues Palau Disputes - international: none

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officially Republic of Palau

Island country, western Pacific Ocean.

Area: 188 sq mi (488 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 19,900. Capital: Koror (acting); scheduled to move to the island of Babelthuap in the early 21st century. The population is of mixed Malay, Melanesian, Filipino, and Polynesian ancestry. Languages: Palauan, Sonsorolese-Tobian, English (all official). Religions: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Modekne. Currency: U.S. dollar. The islands of the Palau group are fertile, with mangrove swamps along the coasts, backed by savanna and palms rising to rainforests in the hills. The major source of employment is government service. Subsistence farming and fishing are the main occupations in the rural areas. Palau is a republic with two legislative houses; its head of state and government is the president. The islands had been under nominal Spanish ownership for more than three centuries when they were sold to Germany in 1899. They were seized by Japan in 1914 and taken by Allied forces in 1944 during World War II. Palau became part of the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947 and became a sovereign state in 1994; the U.S. provides economic assistance and maintains a military presence in the islands.

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▪ 2009

488 sq km (188 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 20,300
Melekeok (on Babelthuap)
Head of state and government:
President Tommy Remengesau, Jr.

      Palau's economy, already damaged by the world financial turmoil, was further injured in May 2008 when Far Eastern Air Transport (FAT) stopped flying to Palau from Taiwan, Palau's largest source of tourist income. China Airlines offset the damage to some extent by its decision to fly charter flights to Palau four times a week.

      Anxiety about the fall in tourist revenue was increased by the gloom caused by rising local fuel prices. The increase in the world market price of oil—and the rise in electricity charges by the Palau Public Utilities Corp. to meet a potential budget shortfall of $700,000—saw the country facing what Sen. Santy Asanuma (chairperson of the Palau Resources, Commerce, Trade and Development Committee) described as a grave crisis. Pres. Tommy Remengesau met the challenge by recommending that the legislature initiate legislation to borrow $3 million from an existing Taiwan Infrastructure Fund. Palau also pursued possible oil and gas resources in northern Palau and in the area of Kayangel state. The Palau Oil and Gas Task Force was cochaired by Noah Idechong and Asanuma, while the selection process for potential exploration companies was administered and directed by the World Bank.

      In August public health officials declared a dengue fever epidemic. A national campaign was launched to get rid of dengue mosquito breeding areas, and by October conditions were showing some improvement.

      In Palau's November 4 general elections, Johnson Toribiong claimed the presidency by a mere 216 votes over Elias Camsek Chin. Remengesau was unable to run because of term limits. Toribiong would take office in January 2009.

A.R.G. Griffiths

▪ 2008

488 sq km (188 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 20,200
Melekeok (on Babelthuap)
Head of state and government:
President Tommy Remengesau, Jr.

      Palau continued to build up its international profile in 2007. The country vowed to join the United States and Russia in the fight against nuclear terrorism. After a meeting in Ankara, Tur., in February, Palau approved the statutory documents of the Global Initiative, which U.S. Pres. George W. Bush and Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin had instigated. Palau maintained its close association with Taipei and was invited by Taiwanese Pres. Chen Shui-bian to attend the second Taiwan–Pacific Allies Summit, held in the Marshall Islands in October.

      Palau remained of concern to the trade union movement. After the World Bank's publication Doing Business ranked Palau in the top 10 in “Employing Workers,” the International Trade Union Confederation declared in September that the World Bank's decision to award Palau (with other deregulated economies) a high ranking was to promote a dangerous model of labour reform.

      The World Health Organization rated Palau as having the seventh fattest people in the world. Poor diet, Western-style junk food, and a lack of exercise had put Palauns at risk of premature death from weight-related illnesses. The country also faced painful confirmation of the threat of HIV/AIDS in the region, and in April Palau consulted with other Pacific governments at a meeting during which experts proposed steps for dealing with the growing number of people affected by the illness.

A.R.G. Griffiths

▪ 2007

488 sq km (188 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 20,100
Melekeok (on Babelthuap) from Oct. 1, 2006
Head of state and government:
President Tommy Remengesau, Jr.

 In early September 2006 Palau Pres. Tommy Remengesau, Jr., welcomed heads of state from Taiwan, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu to the first Taiwan-Pacific Allies Summit. Palau had been chosen by Taiwanese Pres. Chen Shui-bian as the best site to sign a declaration of cooperation with the six South Pacific countries. Sensitive to Chinese criticism, Chen denied that Taiwan practiced “checkbook diplomacy.” Remengesau, however, welcomed the visitors and their financial aid, which was spent on projects involving tourism, health care, the protection of natural resources, and the training of police.

      Palau and the Philippines became embroiled in a serious diplomatic incident in August when a Philippine coast guard vessel intercepted the Palauan barge Cheryll Ann. The Philippine government suspected that the Cheryll Ann was carrying nuclear waste. President Remengesau indignantly responded that Palau had seen the damage that nuclear energy had done in the Pacific and that his country was nuclear-free. He insisted that the vessel had been cleared by Palauan officials to sail for Malaysia with a cargo of waste oil, a by-product of Palau's road-making public works program.

      Meanwhile, Greenpeace praised Palau for its leading role in joining the Federated States of Micronesia, Vanuatu, and Australia in calling on the UN to establish an immediate moratorium on unregulated high-seas bottom trawling.

A.R.G. Griffiths

▪ 2006

488 sq km (188 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 21,100
Provisional capital:
Koror; new capital buildings at Melekeok (on Babelthuap) scheduled to be completed in 2006
Head of state and government:
President Tommy Remengesau, Jr.

      In 2005 Palau continued to enjoy one of the highest living standards in the Pacific region, thanks to disbursements by the U.S. under the Compact of Free Association. Palau was allocated $12.8 million in direct assistance from the U.S. during the year. Major building projects included an 85-km (53-mi) highway on the island of Babelthuap and the continuing construction of a new national capital complex at Melekeok. As part of a strategy to improve public health in Palau, Pres. Tommy Remengesau, Jr., declared September 2005 as Alcohol and Addiction Recovery Month. Remengesau stressed the need to support family members and encourage addicts in the community to seek help.

      Palau remained a conspicuous supporter of Taiwan. In New York City on September 14, President Remengesau urged the UN to fulfill its goal of universal representation by admitting Taiwan as a member. Taiwanese Pres. Chen Shui-bian went to Palau to attend the inauguration ceremony for Remengesau, who won reelection in 2004. Chen's visit provoked an angry response from China.

A.R.G. Griffiths

▪ 2005

488 sq km (188 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 20,700
Provisional capital:
Koror; new capital buildings at Melekeok (on Babelthuap) had not been completed as of late 2004
Head of state and government:
President Tommy Remengesau, Jr.

      In June 2004 Palauan Pres. Tommy Remengesau declared his intention to seek another four-year term in office, running on a platform of “preserving the best while improving the rest.” He said that despite outside factors—such as global terrorism, which hurt tourism, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the recent outbreaks of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), and the Asian economic decline—Palau had a positive economic and social outlook. In the general election on November 2, Remengesau easily won reelection.

      Remengesau visited Taiwan to attend Pres. Chen Shui-ban's inauguration in May and reiterated that a key objective in Palau's foreign policy was to support Taiwan actively. At a summit meeting in Guam in July, Remengesau pledged cooperation with three other Pacific island governments to boost tourism in the region, find alternative sources of energy, and develop solid-waste-management facilities. Palau also took effective steps to protect its valuable tuna-fishing industry in a multinational law-enforcement operation called Island Chief 2004. The operation, which used four ships, including the Palau-owned Pacific-class patrol boat President H.I. Remeliik, lasted three weeks. The successful exercise was supported by the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada and used Canadian satellite support as well as surveillance by New Zealand P3 and U.S. C130 aircraft to detect illegal fisheries.

A.R.G. Griffiths

▪ 2004

488 sq km (188 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 20,200
Provisional capital:
Koror; new capital buildings at Melekeok (on Babelthuap) had not been completed as of late 2003
Head of state and government:
President Tommy Remengesau, Jr.

      Palau joined the “coalition of the willing” in March 2003 and supported the U.S.-led war on Iraq. Acting under Palau's Compact of Free Association with the U.S., Pres. Tommy Remengesau, Jr., offered the use of Palau's facilities as an additional staging area for American military operations. Remengesau visited Washington, D.C., when U.S. forces began their military strike on Iraq and told Pres. George W. Bush that he prayed for the young men and women who were “defending freedom and democracy in America's military.” Vice Pres. Sandra Pierantozzi convened both the National Emergency Committee and the National Emergency Management Office to tighten all points of entry into the country and to enhance security at power plants and embassies. Pierantozzi also took steps to prevent opportunistic increases in the cost of such basic commodities as fuel and oil.

      Remengesau vowed to push for a bill to permit dual citizenship for Palauans in the U.S. in an effort to help the many Palauans serving in the U.S. military gain promotions yet retain voting and property rights in Palau. Remengesau also gave his support to 10 Palauan policemen who volunteered to join the Solomon Islands peacekeeping mission, and he pledged Palau's assistance to help restore law and order there.

A.R.G. Griffiths

▪ 2003

488 sq km (188 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 19,900
Provisional capital:
Koror; new capital buildings at Melekeok (on Babelthuap) to be completed in 2003
Head of state and government:
President Tommy Remengesau, Jr.

      Palau improved its relationships with both the United States and Taiwan in 2002. House Speaker Mario S. Guilbert led a nine-member delegation from Palau on a five-day visit to Taiwan to support its mission to join the United Nations. During his visit Guilbert thanked Taiwan for its long-term assistance in the areas of tourism, agriculture, education, and cultural and medical services. Taiwanese Pres. Chen Shui-bian particularly thanked Guilbert for his personal contribution to maintaining bilateral ties and especially noted Guilbert's role in guiding through the Palau legislature a resolution that called for China to remove its missiles aimed at Taiwan.

      Palau was sympathetic to the major diplomatic drive by the United States to exempt U.S. troops from prosecution by the International Criminal Court, and it became one of a group of signatories to an agreement not to extradite U.S. soldiers for prosecution to the Hague-based court. Palau moved closer to trade integration with the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement group of nations, set up to establish a free-trade area.

A.R.G. Griffiths

▪ 2002

488 sq km (188 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 19,700
Provisional capital:
Koror; a site on Babelthuap was designated to be the permanent capital.
Head of state and government:
Presidents Kuniwo Nakamura and, from January 19, Tommy Remengesau

      In a major change at the top, voters in Palau elected a new president. Tommy Remengesau began his four-year term on Jan. 19, 200l, and replaced Kuniwo Nakamura, who enthusiastically endorsed his successor. Remengesau moved quickly to strengthen economic relations with Taiwan, especially in the tourism industry, and Taiwan sent a delegation to attend his inauguration.

      In April Palau and Saga University, Saga City, Japan, signed an agreement for technical cooperation in the implementation of a power-generation method developed by the university. Under the agreement, Palau would generate its electric power through ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC). In the South Pacific region, water temperatures can differ by as much as 11 °C (20 °F) between the surface and depths of several hundred metres, a factor that was ideally suited to the environmentally friendly OTEC method using ocean temperature differentials.

A.R.G. Griffiths

▪ 2001

488 sq km (188 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 18,800
Provisional capital:
Koror; a site on Babelthuap was designated to be the permanent capital.
Head of state and government:
President Kuniwo Nakamura

      Relations between Palau and Taiwan were strengthened in 2000. Taiwan opened an embassy in Palau on March 5, and Taiwan Foreign Minister Chen Chien-jen and Palau State Minister Sabias Anastacio together presided over the opening ceremony. Chen led a delegation of 60 government officials and business leaders who spent four days in Palau planning entrepreneurial enterprises. After the embassy opening Pres. Kuniwo Nakamura accepted an offer to visit Taiwan, and he subsequently held talks with Taiwanese investors in May.

      Relations with Japan were also fostered. As part of the Common Agenda (a joint U.S.-Japan project addressing global issues), the Japan International Cooperation Agency spent ¥800 million (about $7.2 million) on a Palau International Coral Reef Center. The facility was expected to carry out ecological observations and to work to preserve coral reefs by examining ways to manage marine resources. In addition, Aoyama Planning Arts, Inc., obtained the support of President Nakamura for a project to link all households on the more than 200 islands constituting Palau with a communications system via a fibre-optic network.

A.R.G. Griffiths

▪ 2000

488 sq km (188 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 18,500
Provisional capital:
Koror; a site on Babelthuap was designated to be the permanent capital
Head of state and government:
President Kuniwo Nakamura

      The government of Palau continued to focus on economic development in 1999. The problem of Filipino fishermen illegally entering Palau's exclusive economic zone continued; 21 fishermen who had been detained for eight months were released in April 1999 after their catch of tuna, swordfish, marlin, and shark was seized.

      With financial aid from the U.S. due to run out in 2009, Pres. Kuniwo Nakamura concentrated on using his Japanese connections to prepare for the country's future. Yoshiro Yamazaki, a Japanese banker, was appointed as an economic adviser to Nakamura in order to promote financial independence. Commenting on his appointment, Yamazaki said his task would be to help the beautiful island develop new businesses and to become a financially independent country while at the same time paying strict attention to environmental issues. In June Japan gave ¥3,879,000,000 (about $36.9 million) to Palau to help build a bridge and a coral reef research centre. More than 20,000 Japanese tourists visited Palau during the year. At year's end Palau also established full diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

A.R.G. Griffiths

▪ 1999

      Area: 488 sq km (188 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 18,100

      Provisional capital: Koror; a site on Babelthuap was designated to be the permanent capital

      Head of state and government: President Kuniwo Nakamura

      The leader of Palau, the newest member of the United Nations, testified at the UN in 1998 about his country's problem with drug trafficking. Pres. Kuniwo Nakamura told the UN General Assembly special session on drugs that an imported form of methamphetamine had been supplied to users as young as 13.

      Nakamura visited Davao City, Phil., in May as part of a delegation that also included the speaker of the House of Delegates, Ignacio Anastacio, and the Senate leader, Isodoro Rudimch. As part of a strategy to develop Palau as an emerging market in the world economy, Nakamura concentrated his negotiations on such industries as tuna canning and fisheries. Palau Trade and Commerce Minister Okada Techitong later signed a partnership agreement for trade with the Philippines in June 1998 to build on existing export-import links in cement and roofing materials. The bilateral agreement was also expected to benefit the 5,000 Filipinos working on Palau.


▪ 1998

      Area: 488 sq km (188 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 17,200

      Provisional capital: Koror; a site on Babelthuap was designated to be the permanent capital

      Head of state and government: President Kuniwo Nakamura

      In 1997 Pres. Kuniwo Nakamura made good use of opportunities to develop trade relationships and forge vital links with Palau's neighbours. He made his first visit to China accompanied by the president of the Palau Senate, Isidoro Rudimch, and the speaker of the House of Delegates, Ignacio Anastacio. This was the most senior delegation the country had sent abroad since independence in 1994. The importance of the trip was underlined by the meeting of Palau's leaders with Qiao Shi, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Chinese National People's Congress.

      During the year Palau formally agreed to establish diplomatic exchanges with the Philippines. Relations between the two nations had been strained by the detention of Filipino fishermen arrested for unlawful entry and fish poaching in Palauan waters. Palauan Minister of State Andres Uherbelau assured Philippine Pres. Fidel Ramos that the 5,000 overseas Filipino workers in Palau would be accorded fair, just, and reasonable working conditions.

      On April 3 President Nakamura was on hand when a draft agreement on Taiwanese aviation exchanges was initialed by Palau's commerce and trade minister, George Ngirarsaol. Further links were made with Taipei when Taiwan's Wallant International Development Holding Co. agreed to cooperate with Palau's Pacific Development Corp. on the establishment of Palau's first university. The projected university, which was expected to attract Taiwanese students, would include lakeside villas, a golf course, and a commercial centre. On August 3 a pontoon-type bridge, designed and built by the Japanese, opened between Koror and Babelthuap islands as a temporary replacement for the 241-m (790-ft) bridge that collapsed in 1996.

      This article updates Palau.

▪ 1997

      A republic in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean, Palau comprises a 640-km (400-mi)-long chain of some 340 volcanic and coralline islands. The main islands of Babelthuap and Koror are situated about 900 km east of the Philippines. Area: 488 sq km (188 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 17,000. Provisional cap.: Koror, on Koror; a site on Babelthuap was designated to be the eventual permanent capital. Monetary unit: U.S. dollar, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of $1.58 to £ 1 sterling. President in 1996, Kuniwo Nakamura.

      Palau's first presidential election since independence took place in November 1996, with incumbent Kuniwo Nakamura easily winning, but only after his main rival, Johnson Toribiong, withdrew in the wake of a scandal over the collapse of the country's major transportation artery, the K-B bridge linking the capital and Babeldaob, the largest island in the chain.

      Despite opposition from China, Palau informally allied itself with Taiwan by deciding to open a consulate in Taipei, the capital, which would issue tourist visas.

      Palau, heavily dependent on tourism, also broadened its economic base. It entered into an agreement with JAL (Japan Airlines), which would assist Palau in establishing its own carrier in Micronesia. Palau hoped that when transportation links were firmly established in 1997, organically grown produce could be sent on returning flights to Japan. (A.R.G. GRIFFITHS)

      This article updates Palau.

▪ 1996

      A republic in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean, Palau comprises a 640-km (400-mi)-long chain of some 340 volcanic and coralline islands. The main islands of Babelthuap and Koror are situated about 900 km east of the Philippines. Area: 488 sq km (188 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 16,900. Provisional cap.: Koror, on Koror; a site on Babelthuap was designated to be the eventual permanent capital. Monetary unit: U.S. dollar, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of $1.58 to £ 1 sterling. President in 1995, Kuniwo Nakamura.

      In 1995 the new nation opened diplomatic talks with the U.S. and Japan, which had ruled the archipelago from 1914 until its capture by U.S. marines in 1944. Palauan Pres. Kuniwo Nakamura, who was of second-generation Japanese ancestry, visited Japan in April 1995. His top priorities were the increase of trade and tourism between the two nations and, if possible, the establishment of direct airlinks to facilitate fish exports to Tokyo.

      Earlier he had visited Taiwan, with a view to opening up diplomatic relations and soliciting business aid. In Taipei Nakamura met with Taiwan's foreign minister, Frederick Chien, hoping to build on existing links under which Taiwanese agriculturalists and technicians had helped with economic development. The Australian minister for Pacific affairs, Gordon Bilney, joined the independence celebrations by declaring that Australia would give Palau a Pacific-class naval patrol boat, the kind of boat Canberra had given to almost all the other member states of the Pacific Island Forum. (A.R.G. GRIFFITHS)

      This updates the article Palau.

▪ 1995
 A republic in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean, Palau comprises a 640-km (400-mi)-long chain of some 340 volcanic and coralline islands (see Map—>). The main islands of Babelthuap and Koror are situated about 900 km east of the Philippines. Area: 488 sq km (188 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 16,600. Provisional cap.: Koror, on Koror; a site on Babelthuap was designated to be the eventual permanent capital. Monetary unit: U.S. dollar, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of $1.59 to £1 sterling. President in 1994, Kuniwo Nakamura.

      Palau became a sovereign state on Oct. 1, 1994, when its Compact of Free Association with the U.S. became effective. Since 1991 it had been the only remaining dependent state constituting the U.S.-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, a trusteeship established under UN auspices after World War II to facilitate the transition to independence of the former Japanese colonial territory.

      Palau's formal approval of the Compact of Free Association had been delayed by seven unsuccessful plebiscites between 1983 and 1990 (over the issue of disposal and storage of U.S. nuclear materials in Palau) that did not meet the 75% approval requirement of the Palau constitution. A 1992 constitutional amendment reducing the 75% to a simple majority ended the impasse with approval of the compact in the eighth plebiscite in November 1993 by an approval rate of 68%.

      The compact recognized Palau's nearly complete autonomy in the conduct of domestic and foreign affairs but obligated it to avoid foreign policy initiatives that were contrary to U.S. interests as determined by joint consultations. The U.S. remained responsible for the defense of Palau for 50 years; Palau was required to grant the U.S. rights to existing military bases in Palau for that period of time.

      The new nation applied to the United Nations in November and was admitted as the 185th member of the General Assembly on December 15. (STEPHEN NEHER)

      This updates the article Palau.

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Palau, flag of   country in the western Pacific Ocean. It consists of some 340 coral and volcanic islands perched on the Kyushu-Palau Ridge. The Palau (also spelled Belau or Pelew) archipelago lies in the southwest corner of Micronesia, with Guam 830 miles (1,330 km) to the northeast, New Guinea 400 miles (650 km) to the south, and the Philippines 550 miles (890 km) to the west, A huge barrier reef system, continuous on the west and broken on the east, encircles most of the archipelago. Its major populated islands are Babelthuap (Babeldaob), Koror, Malakal, Arakabesan, and Peleliu. The sparsely populated Kayangel Islands to the north of Babelthuap and the raised coral islands of Angaur, Sonsorol, Pulo Anna, and Tobi south of Peleliu lie outside the barrier reef system.

      Palau was a member of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (Pacific Islands, Trust Territory of the), which was established in 1947 and administered by the United States. The U.S. government dissolved the trusteeship in 1986, but repeated measures to win the required support for a compact of free association between Palau and the United States were unsuccessful until 1993. The Republic of Palau officially became a sovereign state on Oct. 1, 1994.

      Koror island, rising to 2,061 feet (628 metres) just south of Babelthuap, is home to Koror city, the largest population centre and former capital. Melekeok, on Babelthuap, became the capital in October 2006.


Relief and drainage
  All but six of Palau's islands lie within an expansive lagoon, enclosed by the barrier reef, that stretches northeast to southwest for almost 70 miles (115 km). Babelthuap, the largest island (153 square miles [396 square km]), is volcanic, mainly composed of andesite, and is bounded by thick mangrove forests broken occasionally by sandy beaches on the east coast. Its highest point, Ngerchelchuus, in the northwest, is 794 feet (242 metres) high. Babelthuap is essentially a rolling upland, part grassland and part jungle, that has been incised by stream action to form a well-developed drainage system of three rivers. With about 150 inches (3,800 mm) of rain annually, considerable erosion has taken place on Babelthuap in spite of the stability provided by laterite soils, clays, and vegetation. The Palauan practice of burning the grassy upland areas during the dry season has contributed to erosion.

      A steel bridge connects the islands of Babelthuap and Koror. Koror in turn is linked by causeway to Malakal Island, the site of Palau's deepwater port, and to Arakabesan Island. The combined area of the three smaller linked islands is 7 square miles (18 square km). All are of volcanic origin. However, beginning adjacent to southern Babelthuap and eastern Koror and filling the huge lagoon for 28 miles (45 km) south to Peleliu are more than 300 verdant “rock islands.” These are uplifted reef structures of coralline limestone, each deeply undercut at sea level. Some of the rock islands are large, towering some 600 feet (180 metres); these can have interior brackish lakes, containing unique organisms, that are connected to the lagoon by subterranean channels. Plant growth is thick on the rock islands and, together with the chemical action of heavy rains, has sculpted and broken their surfaces, producing razor-sharp edges and points and broken rubble. The limestone islands have rich deposits of phosphate, and the more accessible ones have been mined.

      The inhabited coral islands outside Palau's reef-lagoon-island system sit on volcanic substructures and consist of the Kayangel Islands, 25 miles (40 km) north of Babelthuap, and Angaur, 6 miles (10 km) south of Peleliu. Angaur was heavily mined for its phosphate first by the Germans and later by the Japanese. Sonsorol, Pulo Anna, and Tobi, all with areas of less than 1 square mile (2.6 square km), are 180 miles (290 km) southwest of the Palau archipelago. All are flat platform structures with fringing reefs.

      Palau's climate is tropical. Rainfall varies from about 120 to 160 inches (3,050 to 4,060 mm) per year. Humidity is fairly constant, ranging from 77 to 84 percent, and temperatures vary not more than 10 °F (5.5 °C) diurnally, monthly, or annually from a mean in the low 80s °F (28 °C). Northeast trade winds prevail from December to March, and the southwest monsoon from June to October. Prevailing oceanic currents offshore are the North Equatorial Current and the Pacific Equatorial Countercurrent.

      Geologically, Palau sits on the Philippine Sea Plate only 30 miles (48 km) west of the 26,200-foot- (7,990-metre-) deep Palau Trench, the western boundary of the upthrusting Pacific Plate. Despite its close proximity to this subduction zone, Palau rarely experiences earthquake activity.

Plant and animal life
      Palau's marine environment exhibits a rich fauna balanced by an abundant terrestrial flora. This richness derives from Palau's close proximity to Indonesia, New Guinea, and the Philippines. Palau has more species of marine life than any other area of similar size in the world; corals, fish, snails, clams, sea cucumbers, starfish, sea urchins, sea anemones, jellyfish, squid, and feather-duster worms exist in profusion and variety. Such marine life has made Palau one of the world's premier scuba-diving locations. Common flora are the beach morning glory, Polynesian ironwood tree, pandanus, and various species of palm and fern. The birds of Palau are abundant and colourful, and many migrate to or through Palau twice annually. A few species of reptiles and amphibians live in Palau, including a unique frog that gives birth to live young. Insects are also abundant. The accidentally introduced coconut rhinoceros beetle can do enormous damage to coconut palms, but various biological methods are used to control its spread.


Ethnic groups and languages
      The islands were inhabited from 3,000 to 2,000 years ago by successive waves of Malays from Indonesia, Melanesians from New Guinea, Philippine natives, and some Polynesians from outlying Polynesian islands in Micronesia. This resulted in a diverse population, which since the late 18th century has also included Europeans, Japanese, and Americans. The southwest islanders, who are culturally and linguistically distinct from the Palauans, are the only minority group; they trace their origin to a group of ancestral survivors of one or more canoes that drifted to Sonsorol from Ulithi (Ulithi Atoll) Atoll, northeast of Yap.

      Palauan (Palauan language) is a Western Austronesian language (Austronesian languages) and is very complex in that it has many irregularities that make formulation of grammatical and lexical rules difficult. Sonsorolese-Tobian, another native language, is spoken on the southwest islands. Palauan, Sonsorolese-Tobian, and English are the official languages of Palau.

      The indigenous Palauan religion of powerful ancestral and nature spirits was supplanted by Christianity, brought by missionaries. Slightly more than half the population is Roman Catholic; just over one-fourth is Protestant. There are smaller numbers of Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and members of other faiths.

Settlement patterns and demographic trends
      Historically, Palauans have tended to migrate overseas to a greater extent than have other Micronesians. There are a number of substantial Palauan communities on Guam, in Hawaii, and on the West Coast of the United States. Beginning in the late 20th century, immigration—fueled by foreigners seeking employment, especially those from the Philippines—grew significantly; by the early 21st century, foreigners accounted for more than one-fourth of the population.

      Since the end of World War II, the major employer in Palau has been government—first the U.S. Navy, then the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and finally the government of Palau. Nevertheless, in the rural areas outside Koror the subsistence economy is active. Women typically gather and cultivate taro, sweet potato, and cassava, and men fish and tend pigs, which are used at customary feasts. Nearshore reef fishing is carried out on a subsistence and small-venture basis, but it does not generate significant government revenue. Offshore tuna fishing by foreign vessels provides a small amount of government revenue through the sale of licenses. There are no major exportable crops; tuna and clothing are the country's main exports. Tourism grew considerably during the late 20th century and has also made some contribution to the republic's economic growth. The country's per capita income is one of the highest in the region.

      The U.S. dollar is the official currency of Palau, which does not have a central bank. In 1997 the country joined the International Monetary Fund. There is heavy reliance on financial assistance from the United States. Following allegations in 1999 that Palau was the site of money-laundering activities, the government established financial regulatory bodies in the early 21st century and introduced tighter banking regulations.

      Foreigners, particularly from the Philippines and Taiwan, constitute a growing segment of Palau's labour force. By the early 21st century, foreigners accounted for more than two-fifths of the country's paid workers. While the constitution allows for the formation of unions, at the start of the 21st century no such organizations existed in Palau. In 1998 the country adopted its first minimum-wage law; the law, however, does not apply to foreign workers.

      Koror has a system of paved roads. There are stretches of paved road on Babelthuap, and in the mid-1990s construction began on a 53-mile (85-km), two-lane highway. Known as the Compact Road because its construction was a term of the Compact of Free Association, it was completed in 2007. The roads built in 1944–46 by U.S. military forces on Peleliu and Angaur are still usable. Transportation between islands is usually by boat or airplane. There is regular commuter service from Koror to Peleliu and Angaur, and trips by speedboat to coastal villages on Babelthuap usually can be completed in a few hours. There is an international airport located on Babelthuap.

Government and society
      The constitution of the Republic of Palau established a presidential form of government, which was installed in 1981. The executive consists of the separately elected offices of president and vice president, the Council of Chiefs to advise the president on traditional laws and customs, and the cabinet. The Olbiil Era Kelulau (National Congress) consists of the Senate and the House of Delegates. Both executive and legislative branches are elected for four-year terms. Voting is open to individuals age 18 and older. The Palau judiciary consists of the Supreme Court, with both trial and appellate divisions, the Court of Common Pleas, and the Land Court. At the local level, each of the 16 traditional settlement areas constitutes a state with an elected governor and legislature. Palau has no armed forces; the United States is responsible for protecting the country.

      Education is compulsory between ages 6 and 14, or until the student completes the eighth grade. There are public and private elementary and secondary schools, and instruction is given in both English and Palauan. Palau Community College (1993), which provides vocational and academic courses and is open to students from throughout Micronesia, originated as a vocational school in the 1920s, during the Japanese administration. Although there is no higher educational institution in Palau, government scholarships are available to young Palauans wanting to further their education in universities abroad. The country has near-total adult literacy.

      Health care is provided by the hospital on Koror; field dispensaries and a small number of private clinics supplement services in remote parts of the country. The incidences of mental illness, suicide, and alcoholism in Palau are higher than in most countries.

Cultural life
 Pragmatic adaptation, persistence of wealth-exchange customs, and competition characterize Palauan society. Palauans adapted to a century of colonial intrusion—Spanish, German, Japanese, and American—by viewing reality as something imposed from the outside to which one must adjust quickly if it is to be manipulated. Reciprocity and redistribution customs carried out between clans exchange food and services for money and gifts at births, house completions, and funerals. Women are the strength of society and control land, money, and titles. Men, previously occupied as fishermen and warriors, continue their traditional tasks in the rural areas and, as an adaptation to modern society, compete for elected office and in business.

      Traditional art forms persist in chants and storyboards, which are now made for sale to tourists rather than for decoration of men's clubhouses. The Belau National Museum (1955) in Koror has a small but instructive collection of artifacts. Many sporting activities centre on Palau's waters and beaches. Baseball is an increasingly popular sport. For a discussion of the culture in its broader regional and historical context, see Micronesian culture.

History (Palau)
      Large hillside terraces, numerous stone ruins, and megaliths on Babelthuap give evidence of a vital culture before contact with European explorers. The first extensive contact of Palauans with Westerners took place after the shipwreck of the East India Company's packet Antelope in 1783. George Keate's An Account of the Pelew Islands (1788), which recounted the friendship and high adventure found in Palau, served to fuel the European myths of the noble savage and the island paradise. The first 70 years of the 19th century were punctuated by the occasional visits of whalers and traders, who left beachcombers and firearms behind. Diseases communicated by contact with Europeans led to the deaths of many islanders, and firearms were prized for intervillage warfare, which was ended in 1883 through the peaceful intervention of Capt. Cyprian Bridge of HMS Espiegle. Spanish and German colonial influence was expressed through Roman Catholic missionaries. The Japanese navy expelled the Germans at the beginning of World War I, and, although the Japanese period is locally remembered as one of economic development and order, the Palauans were a marginal minority by 1936. Japan lost Palau in World War II in a struggle that was socially destabilizing and confusing to the Palauans.

      After a short period of administration by the U.S. Navy, Palau became part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands under U.S. administration in 1947. A constitution was adopted in 1981 (following two prior referendums), and elections were held in the same year. The country became internally self-governing in 1981. Palau signed a Compact of Free Association with the United States in 1982, but the required number of voters failed to pass the referendum until 1993. The compact required that the United States remain responsible for external security and defense and that it provide financial assistance for Palau, but conflict arose over Palau's constitutional prohibition on the operation of U.S. nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed vessels and aircraft within the jurisdiction of Palau. According to the terms of the compact, the United States reserved this right as well as the right to neither confirm nor deny the presence or absence of such weapons in Palau. Several attempts were made to revise the constitution, revise the compact agreement, and secure Palauan approval, and the United States dissolved the trusteeship in 1986. In 1992 voters approved an amendment that reduced from three-fourths to a simple majority the popular vote required to override the antinuclear provision of the constitution. This cleared the way for approval of the compact in 1993, and under its terms Palau became independent in October 1994. Palau joined the United Nations the following December.

      In 1985 volatile internal politics resulted in the assassination of the first president, Haruo I. Remeliik. In August 1985 Lazarus E. Salii was elected to serve out the four-year term begun by Remeliik in January 1985, but Salii's term was also cut short, when he committed suicide in August 1988. By the early 1990s, however, Palauan politics had stabilized.

      In September 1996 the bridge connecting Koror with Babelthuap island collapsed, killing two people and wreaking havoc on the national economy. The capital, cut off from the international airport on Babelthuap, found itself isolated from the rest of the country, as well as from the outside world, and telecommunications, water, and power were disrupted for most of the population. The Japanese government contributed some $25 million for the construction of the replacement Babelthuap-Koror bridge—of a suspension design, rather than a concrete cantilever like the first—which was opened in 2002.

      Palau lent its support to the U.S.-led coalition during the Iraq War, in which Palauan troops served as part of the U.S. military.

Donald Raymond Shuster Sophie Foster

Additional Reading
A rare guidebook devoted to all the islands of Palau is Mike Hollywood, Papa Mike's Palau Islands Handbook (2006). Tim Rock and Francis Toribiong, Diving & Snorkeling Palau, 2nd ed. (2000); and Douglas Faulkner, This Living Reef (1974), provide an introduction to the marine environment. R.E. Johannes, Words of the Lagoon: Fishing and Marine Lore in the Palau District of Micronesia (1981); and H.G. Barnett, Being a Palauan (1959, reissued 1979), are anthropological accounts. International Business Publications, USA, Palau: A “Spy” Guide (2007), provides a treatment of the country's politics, government, business, economy, and culture. Daniel J. Peacock, Lee Boo of Belau: A Prince in London (1987), is the story of the first Palauan to visit the West. Edward C. Barnard, Naked and a Prisoner: Captain Edward C. Barnard's Narrative of Shipwreck in Palau, 1832–1833, ed. by Kenneth R. Martin (1980), is a personal account of a stay in Palau. The long, difficult fight for a Palauan island during World War II is the subject of Bill Sloan, Brotherhood of Heroes: The Marines at Peleliu, 1944 (2006).Sophie Foster

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Universalium. 2010.

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