Spain held the islands for about 300 years before selling them to Germany in 1899. Japan seized them in 1914 and was given a mandate over them by the League of Nations in 1920. A major Japanese naval base in World War II, Palau was seized by U.S. forces in 1944 and made part of the U.S.-administered United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947. Palau became self-governing in 1981. Palau's constitution prohibits nuclear weapons, causing a conflict with the compact of free association proposed by the United States in 1985–86. The islands voted in favor of the compact in 1987, but the referendum failed to garner the 75% of the votes then required. In a new plebiscite held in 1993 the compact was approved, opening the door to closer official linkage with the United States. The following year Palau became an independent nation in free association with the United States. The capital was moved from Oreor to Babeldoab in 2006. In 2010 Palau and the United States signed a 15-year renewal of the financial assistance associated with the compact of free association; the U.S. Congress finally ratified the agreement in 2017. Johnson Toribiong was elected president in 2008, succeeding Tommy Remengesau, Jr., who had been elected to the maximum two terms. In 2012 Remengesau defeated Toribiong to return to the office, and he was reelected in 2016. Parts of the country suffered significant damage from a typhoon in Nov., 2013. In 2015 some 80% of the country's territorial waters, c.190,000 sq mi (500,000 sq km), was designated as a marine sanctuary.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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