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government, Babelthuap, fringing reef, Compact of Free Association, Peleliu

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Republic of Palau, independent republic in the western Pacific Ocean, part of the island group of Micronesia. An archipelago of about 200 islands, Palau is situated near the equator about 850 km (about 500 mi) east of the Philippines. After World War II (1939-1945), it became part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands and was administered by the United States. Palau became a self-governing nation in October 1994, when it entered into a Compact of Free Association with the United States. Koror, which covers the island of the same name, is the country's largest town and the provisional capital. A new capital is being built on the island of Babelthuap.

Land and Resources

The islands that make up Palau are encompassed by a fringing reef. The country has a land area of 488 sq km (188 sq mi). It extends more than 160 km (more than 100 mi) in a north-south direction and about 30 km (about 20 mi) from east to west. Nine of the larger islands are populated. Babelthuap, with an area of more than 337 sq km (more than 130 sq mi), is the largest. It is connected by bridge to Koror. In addition to Babelthuap and Koror, Palau's populated islands include Angaur, Kayangel, and Peleliu.

The larger islands are volcanic and have rich soils and ample water. The southernmost islands are small uplifted coral structures. Palau's climate is tropical and humid. The average high temperature is 27.5 C (81.5 F), with little seasonal variation. Annual rainfall is about 3,800 mm (about 150 in). Fish and other marine life are abundant, but there are few land animals.


Palau's government is based on that of the United States. The president is elected for a maximum of two four-year terms. There is a vice-president and an eight member cabinet. The legislative branch, the Olbiil Era Kelulau (Palau National Congress), known as OEK, is bicameral. The upper house has 14 senators, and the lower house has 16 delegates. Elections are held every four years. Judges are appointed to life terms by the president with OEK approval. At the national level, two paramount chiefs have advisory authority. Palau has 16 states, each with its own governor.


Kiste, Robert C., B.A., Ph.D. Professor of Hawaiian, Asian, and Pacific Studies and Director of the Center for Pacific Island Studies, University of Hawaii. Co-editor of Tides of History: The Pacific Islands in the Twentieth Century.

Microsoft Encarta 2009. 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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