Palau, officially the Republic of Palau, is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, 800 km east of the Philippines and 3,200 km south of Tokyo. In 1978, after three decades as being part of the United Nations trusteeship, Palau chose independence instead of becoming part of the Federated States of Micronesia, a Compact of Free Association was approved in 1986 but not ratified until 1993. It was put into force the following year, making it one of the world’s youngest and smallest sovereign states. In English, the name is sometimes spelled Belau in accordance with the native pronunciation. It was formerly also spelled Pelew.
Palau’s most populous islands are Angaur, Babeldaob, Koror, and Peleliu. The latter three lie together within the same barrier reef, while Angaur is an oceanic island several miles to the south. About two-thirds of the population live on Koror. The coral atoll of Kayangel is situated north of these islands, while the uninhabited Rock Islands (about 200) are situated to the west of the main island group. A remote group of six islands, known as the Southwest Islands, some 600 km from the main islands, are also part of the country and make up the states of Hatohobei and Sonsorol.