Group of Pacific islands southeast of the Philippines, which is one of those independent governments "in free association with the United States" which seem to be fairly common throughout the Pacific. Before 1994 it was a United Nations trust territory administered by the US.

Pronounced "Belau", it is home to the world’s most unmolested reef and ocean wild life, thus the worlds best diving. It has a few WWII relics sunken off its coasts and does not allow commercial fishing within its waters. In Palau the worst crime you can commit is to own a gun, you cannot buy land there unless you are of Palauan descent (in that case the land if given to you for free by your relatives). The most commonly used drug is Betel Nut (which is often chewed by children as well as adults).

Palauans are kind people and yet are not too keen on Americans and hate the Japanese (with rather good cause methinks), they recently (within the last few years) approved a US naval bases construction on the island. This was achieved by simply taking the traditional "majority rules" democratic process and bumping it down vote after vote it so that a 20% yes vote constituted "majority". After about 6 votes it passed (each time the percentage was bumped down, first to 45%, then 45% then 30%, etc...), and the entire thing was run and supervised by none other than the US government. Democracy in action.
Beg to differ with moJoe, but Palauans tend to be quite keen on both Americans and Japanese.

Palau was seized from Germany by Japan as the spoils of World War I. Until that point, Germany's sole interest in Palau was to devote as much land as possible to growing coconut palms for the production of copra. Japan, seeing Palau as a tropical colony, actively developed infrastructure throughout the island: clearing roads through the jungle, building sidewalks and sewers, establishing schools, and encouraging Japanese citizens to develop businesses there. Most older Palauans recall the pre-World War II Japanese colonization of Palau as a sort of golden age, with a mile of colorful storefront awnings lining both sides of the main street. The Japanese also made great efforts to clarfy the ownership of land in Palau, surveying parcels and memorializing titleholders in the Tochi Daicho, the "Book of Lands" that is still referred to today. There was significant mixing among the Japanese and Palauans, and most Palauans today have several relatives of Japanese ancestry.

During the early years of World War II, however, Japanese authorities did begin to nationalize private Palauan property, paritally for the economic benefit of its citizens, and partly for military purposes. Over a short span of time, Palau became a major military installation and training ground for some of the Japanese military. Many Palauans, most notably those living on the southern islands of Peleliu and Anguar, were forcibly relocated to states like Aimeliik in the north. However, even during these times, the Japanese treatment of Palauans was generally good. An argument can be made that some of the forced relocations were partially motivated by a desire to protect the Palauans from harm by moving them off islands of military significance and onto less strategic areas.

Palau was the site of one major air raid, Operation Desecrate One, which resulted in the sinkings of close to 40 ships in and around Koror harbor, and one major land battle-- the U.S. assault on entrenched Japanese forced on Peleliu island. The seizure of Peleliu was supposed to take only two days, and provide protection for U.S. naval forces in the Pacific to continue their march towards Japan. However, due to poor reconnaisance and the tenaciousness of the Japanese troops who had dug hardened positions in the limestone of Peleliu, the battle took two and a half months, by which time the U.S. fleet had long since passed by. 1,200 U.S. Marines were killed in the fighting, whereas the entire Japanese garrison, some 10,000 soldiers, fought to their deaths.

Following the Japanese surrender, the various Pacific islands once seized by the Japanese were consoldiated as a trust under the control of the United Nations, and administered by the United States. Although the U.S. installed functional constitutional governments on the islands, it did little else, and many of the civic improvements made by the Japanese fell into disrepair on the U.S.'s watch. After four decades of minimal assistance by the U.S., Palauans voted to end their status as a trust territory and assert their national independence. Following a series of tense votes and public protest, the Palauans eventually entered into a Compact of Free Association with the U.S., in which the Palauans agreed to permit U.S. occupation for military purposes in exchange for roughly $400 million in aid over a period of fifteen years. It is widely recognized that, with the strong U.S. military presence on nearby Guam and Saipan, it is highly unlikely that the U.S. would ever have a military need to occupy Palau, and to date, only a small camp of Navy seabees represent the U.S. military in Palau.

The large amount of U.S. money pouring into Palau over the last decade or so, coupled with the presence of Americans working with Palauans to develop business and government, generally predisposes most Palauans to be quite friendly towards Americans. Most college-bound Palauans go to school in the U.S., as Palau has only a small community college. Many Palauans stay in the U.S. for a few years to work before returning to their families in Palau. Almost all Palauans speak English flawlessly, and are very accommodating to American tourists, visitors, and expatriates.

Due to its proximity to Japan, Japanese tourists make up a much larger percentage of Palau's tourist population than do Americans, who must weather as much as 22 hours of flying time to get there. Because of both its historical ties to Japan and the prevalence of Japanese tourism there, Palau has quite friendly relations with the Japanese government. In fact, when the bridge linking the two main islands of Palau collapsed in 1996, the Japanese provided Palau with a temporary bridge to replace it. With the end of U.S. funding for Palau approaching, Palau is reaching out to the Japanese for economic development assistance. As of 2001, Palau's first golf course was approved, to be built by Japanese developers. Because of their ancestry and their close economic ties to Japan, Palauans are very gracious to Japanese visitors. Many Palauans speak some Japanese, and grocery stores in Palau carry a wide variety of Japanese food items.

If anything, some Palauans bear slight prejudices towards Filipinos. Because of the substantial American financial aid, Palau is a relatively prosperous nation in the Pacific, and offers many advantages for poor people in the neighboring Philippines to find better paying jobs. As much as 20% of Palau's population consists of Filipino contract laborers, who do much of the construction, cleaning, and waiting tables in Palau, while Palauans generally have higher paying government jobs. Filipino contract laborers are not subject to minimum wage laws, and although Palauan law requires an employer importing foreign contract laborers to provide housing to them, they are often housed in crude communal barracks when not at work. Some Palauan employers have been known to seize the passports of their contract workers, and refuse to release them until the laborer's contract is up or until certain financial kickbacks are paid.

Palau is widely considered to offer the best scuba diving in the world, and the vast majority of its American and European tourism consists of divers. While it offers incredibly clear water, the peculiar geology of Palau results in it having few sandy beaches; instead, much of the coastline consists of mangrove swamps. Consequently, Palau does not have the tourism potential of tropical paradises like Hawaii or Tahiti. Its rugged limestone interior supports breathtakingly lush jungles, but offers a soil that is not suitable for most commerical agriculture. While Palau makes some income from licensing foreign fishing vessels to operate in Palauan waters, it has practically no manufacturing and little GNP.

Palau is located at approx. 135 degrees east; 7 degrees north. It sits just north of the equator, roughly south of Tokyo, and roughly north of central Australia.

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