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.


Location: Oceania, group of islands in the North Pacific Ocean, southeast of the Philippines
Geographic coordinates: 7 30 N, 134 30 E
Population: 21,032 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 21.5% (male 2,329/female 2,187)

15-64 years: 72% (male 8,355/female 6,724)

65 years and over:  6.5% (male 402/female 959) (2011 est.)

Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Palau

conventional short form: Palau

local long form: Beluuer a Belau

local short form: Belau

former: Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, Palau District

Government type: constitutional government in free association with the US; the Compact of Free Association entered into force 1 October 1994
Telephones – main lines in use: 7,000 (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 14,500 (2009)
Airports: 3 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2012)

Military branches: no regular military forces; Palau National Police (2009)
Manpower available for military service: Males age 16-49: 6,987 (2010 est.)


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. The Compact of Free Association with the US, entered into after the end of the UN trusteeship on 1 October 1994, provided Palau with up to $700 million in US aid for the following 15 years in return for furnishing military facilities. Business and tourist arrivals numbered 63,000 in 2003. The population enjoys a per capita income roughly 50% higher than 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.

Transnational Issues:

Maritime delineation negotiations continue with Philippines, Indonesia