Republic of the Marshall Islands
President: Christopher Loeak (2012)
Total area: 70 sq mi (181 sq km), includes
the atolls of Bikini, Eniwetok, and Kwajalein
Population (2010 est.): 65,859 (growth
rate: 2.0%); birth rate: 29.9/1000; infant mortality rate:
24.5/1000; life expectancy: 71.4; density per sq km: 349
Capital and largest city (2003 est.):
Monetary unit: U.S. Dollar
Current government officials
Marshallese 98% (two major dialects from the
Malayo-Polynesian family), English widely spoken as a second
language (both official); Japanese
Protestant 55%, Assembly of God 26%, Roman
Catholic 8%, Bukot nan Jesus 3%, Mormon 2%, other Christian 4%, none
Constitution Day, May 1
Literacy rate: 94% (1999)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2008
est.): $133.5 million; per capita $2,500. Real growth rate:
–0.3%. Inflation: 12.9%. Unemployment:
36%. Arable land: 11%. Agriculture:
coconuts, tomatoes, melons, taro, breadfruit, fruits; pigs,
chickens. Labor force: 28,700 (1996 est); agriculture 21.4%,
industry 20.9%, services 57.7% (1997). Industries: copra,
tuna processing, tourism, craft items from seashells, wood, and
pearls. Natural resources: coconut products, marine products,
deep seabed minerals. Exports: $19 million (2008):
copra cake, coconut oil, handicrafts, fish. Imports: $79.4
million (2008): foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels,
beverages, and tobacco. Major trading partners: U.S., Japan,
Australia, China, New Zealand, Singapore, Fiji, Philippines
Communications: Telephones: main lines
in use: 4,186 (2001); mobile cellular: 489 (2001). Radio
broadcast stations: AM 2, FM 1, shortwave 0 (2002).
Radios: n.a. Television broadcast stations: 2 (both
are US military stations) (2002). Televisions: n.a.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2002). Internet
users: 900 (2002).
Transportation: Railways: 0 km.
Highways: total: n.a.; paved: 64.5 km; unpaved: n.a.; note:
paved roads on major islands (Majuro, Kwajalein), otherwise stone-,
coral-, or laterite-surfaced roads and tracks (2002). Ports and
harbors: Majuro. Airports: 15 (2002).
International disputes: claims U.S.
territory of Wake Island.
Major sources and definitions
The Marshall Islands, east of the Carolines, are
divided into two chains: the western, or Ralik, group, including the
atolls Jaluit, Kwajalein, Wotho, Bikini, and Eniwetok; and the eastern, or
Ratak, group, including the atolls Mili, Majuro, Maloelap, Wotje, and
Likiep. The islands are of coral reef types and rise only a few feet
above sea level. The Marshall Islands comprise an area slightly larger
than Washington, DC.
Constitutional government in free association
with the U.S.
Micronesian peoples were the first inhabitants
of the archipelago. The islands were explored by the Spanish in the 16th
century and were named for a British captain in 1788. Germany
unsuccessfully attempted to colonize the islands in 1885. Japan claimed
them in 1914, but after several battles during World War II, the U.S.
seized them from the Japanese. In 1947, the UN made the island group,
along with the Mariana and Caroline archipelagos, a U.S. trust
U.S. Nuclear Testing
U.S. nuclear testing took place between 1946 and
1958 on the islands of Bikini and Eniwetok. The people of Bikini were
removed to another island, and a total of 23 U.S. atomic and hydrogen bomb
tests were conducted. Despite cleanup attempts, the islands remain
uninhabited today because of nuclear contamination. The U.S. paid the
islands $183.7 million in damages in 1983, and in 1999, the U.S. approved
a one-time $3.8-million payment to the relocated people of Bikini
Kwajalein atoll is the site of an American
military base and has been used for missile defense testing since the
Signing the Compact of Free Association and United Nations Admission
The United States and the Marshall Islands
signed a Compact of Free Association in 1986, which meant the islands
became self-governing but would receive U.S. military and economic aid,
roughly $65 million a year. The Marshall Islands were admitted to the UN
on Sept. 17, 1991.
In 2000, Kessai Note became the first commoner
to become president—his predecessors had been island chiefs. He ran
on an anticorruption ticket and is attempting to make his small nation
more self-sufficient. In 2003, the U.S. and the Marshall Islands agreed on
a new Compact of Free Association, an extension of the lease to use the
Kwajalein military base in exchange for economic aid. In Jan. 2004,
Parliament reelected President Note.
World's Largest Shark Sanctuary Declared
Over 772,000 square miles of ocean was declared a shark sanctuary by the government in October 2011. The area became the largest shark sanctuary in the world. Fishing for sharks is banned.
On January 3, 2012, the Nitijela, the 33-member legislature, elected Christopher Loeak president. Loeak defeated incumbent Jurelang Zedkaia by 21 to 11 votes.
See also Encyclopedia: Marshall Islands.
U.S. State Dept. Country
Notes: Marshall Islands
Office of Planning and Statistics www.rmiembassyus.org .
Information Please® Database, © 2012 Pearson
Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
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