President: Casten Nemra (2016)
Total area: 70 sq mi (181 sq km), includes the atolls of Bikini, Eniwetok, and Kwajalein
Population (2014 est.): 70,983 (growth rate: 1.72%); birth rate: 26.36/1000; infant mortality rate: 21.39/1000; life expectancy: 72.58
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Majuro, 31,000
Monetary unit: U.S. Dollar
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 territory.