Palau is an island republic in the western Pacific, officially known as the Republic of Palau (Palauan: Beluu er a Belau) and traditionally known as Belau, Palaos, or Pelew. The country consists of around 340 islands and links the western chain of the Caroline Islands to sections of the Federated States of Micronesia. It covers an area of 466 square kilometers (180 square miles). Koror is the most populated island, and it is home to the country's largest city of the same name. Ngerulmud, the capital of Melekeok State, is situated on the adjacent island of Babeldaob. Palau has international seas to the north, the Federated States of Micronesia to the east, Indonesia to the south, and the Philippines to the northwest.
Approximately 3,000 years ago, settlers from Maritime Southeast Asia established in the nation. The Czech missionary Paul Klein initially depicted Palau on a European map based on a description provided by a group of Palauans stranded on the Philippine coast on Samar. In 1885, the Palau Islands were included into the Spanish East Indies. Following Spain's loss in the Spanish–American War in 1898, the islands were ceded to Germany in 1899 as part of the German–Spanish Treaty and governed as part of German New Guinea. Following World War I, the League of Nations included the islands in the Japanese-ruled South Seas Mandate. During World War II, as part of the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign, American and Japanese forces fought skirmishes, including the main Battle of Peleliu. Palau, along with the other Pacific Islands, became a member of the US-governed Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947. After rejecting membership in the Federated States of Micronesia in a referendum in 1978, the islands obtained complete sovereignty in 1994 via a Compact of Free Association with the United States.
Palau is a presidential republic in free association with the US, which provides military, finance, and access to social services. The bicameral Palau National Congress has legislative authority. Palau's economy is mostly centered on tourism, subsistence agriculture, and fishing, with foreign assistance accounting for a major share of the gross national product (GNP). The United States dollar is the country's currency. The culture of the islands combines Micronesian, Melanesian, Asian, and Western components. The bulk of the people is of mixed Micronesian, Melanesian, and Austronesian ancestry. Japanese ancestry constitutes a minor share of the population. Palauan (an Austronesian language) and English are the country's two official languages, with Japanese, Sonsorolese, and Tobian recognized as regional languages.