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Background Notes: Federated States of Micronesia, June 1996

Released by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
U.S. Department of State

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Official Name:  Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)

PROFILE

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective:  Micronesian(s).
Population:  105,900 (1994 est.).
Annual growth rate:  3.35% (1995 est.).
Ethnic groups:  Nine ethnic Micronesian and Polynesian groups.
Religions:  Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 47%.
Languages:  English (official and common language), Chuukese, 
Pohnpeian, Yapese, Kosraean.
Education:  Literacy--89% (1980 est.).
Health:  Infant mortality rate--37 deaths/1000 live births (1995 est.). 
Life expectancy--men 66 yrs., women 70 yrs. (1995 est.).

Geography

Area:  702 sq. km. (approximately 270 sq. mi.) in four major island 
groups totaling 607 islands.
Cities:  FSM Capital--Palikir (Pohnpei).
Other cities:  Moen (Chuuk), Colonia (Yap), Lelu (Kosrae).
Terrain:  Islands vary geologically from high mountainous islands to 
low, coral atolls; volcanic outcroppings on Pohnpei, Kosrae, and 
Chuuk.
Climate:  Tropical; heavy year-round rainfall, especially in the eastern 
islands; occasional typhoons cause severe damage.

Government

Type:  Constitutional government in free association with the U.S.  The 
Compact of Free Association entered into force November 3, 1986.
Independence:  November 3, 1986.  From 1947 until independence the 
FSM was part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands administered 
by the U.S. pursuant to an agreement with the United Nations.
Constitution:  May 10, 1979
Branches:  Executive--President (chief of state) and cabinet 
Legislative--unicameral congress
Judicial--Supreme Court.
Political Parties:  No formal parties.
Suffrage:  Universal at 18 years of age.
Administrative subdivisions:  Four state governments (Chuuk, Kosrae, 
Pohnpei and Yap).
Flag:  Light blue with four white five-pointed stars centered; the stars 
are arranged in a diamond pattern.

Economy

GDP:  $215 million (1994 est.).
Per capita income:  $1,800 (1994 est.-- factoring in U.S. assistance 
through Compact of Free Association payments).
Natural resources:  Forests, marine products, deep-seabed minerals.
Agriculture:  Black pepper, tropical fruits and vegetables, coconuts, 
cassava, sweet potatoes, pigs, chickens (mainly subsistence-level).
Industries:  Tourism, fish processing, copra, handicrafts.
Trade:  Exports--$31 million:  fish, copra (1994 est.). Imports--$141 
million:  food, fuel, consumer products.

PEOPLE

The FSM consists of 607 islands extending 1,800 miles across the 
archipelago of the Caroline Islands.  The islands are located between 
the equator and 9 degrees north and 138 degrees and 168 degrees east. 
Traditionally the Micronesian societies have been matrilineal.  Three of 
the four states recognize the role of the traditional leaders and customs.  
Kosrae has no traditional leaders.

Nearly all Micronesians are Christian.  Yapese are mostly Catholic, 
Kosraeans mostly Protestant, and Pohnpeians and Chuukese divided.  
Eight languages are spoken in the FSM:  Chuukese, Kosraean, 
Kapingamarangi, Nukuoran, Pohnpeian, Ulithian, Woleaian, and 
Yapese.  English has become the common language.

HISTORY

In 1525, Portuguese navigators in search of the Spice Islands 
(Indonesia) came upon Yap and Ulithi.  Spanish expeditions later 
explored the rest of the Caroline Islands.  The Spanish Empire claimed 
sovereignty over the Carolines until 1899 when it sold all of its Pacific 
island territories to Germany, except Guam which became a U.S. 
territory.

The German administration of the Carolines encouraged development 
of trade and production of copra.  In 1914, German administration 
ended when Japanese naval squadrons took over possession of the 
Carolines, Marshalls, and Marianas.

Japan began its formal administration under a League of Nations 
mandate in 1920.  Through extensive settlement the Japanese 
population in Micronesia exceeded 100,000 (as compared to an 
indigenous population of about 40,000 at the time).

Following U.S. occupation of the islands in World War II, the United 
Nations in 1947 created the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands 
(TTPI) with the U.S. as administering authority.  The TTPI consisted of 
Kosrae, Ponape (now Pohnpei), Truk (now Chuuk), and Yap (which 
now are the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia), Palau, 
the Marshall Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.  On November 
3, 1986, the FSM became independent and entered into free association 
with the U.S. 

GOVERNMENT

The constitution separates the executive, legislative, and judicial 
branches.  It provides for a unicameral legislature of 14 senators:  ten 
elected every two years from districts apportioned according to 
population, and one elected at large from each state every four years.  
Two of the at-large senators are elected President and Vice-President 
by congress every four years.  Their congressional seats are then filled 
by special elections.  President Bailey Olter (of Pohnpei) and Vice-
President Jacob Nena (of Kosrae) were re-elected to second four-year 
terms in March 1995.

The FSM judiciary is headed by the Supreme Court, which is divided 
into trial and appellate divisions.  The President appoints judges with 
the advice and consent of the congress.

The four state governments have considerable power.  Each state 
government has its own executive, legislature, and court systems.  
Governors and legislators are popularly elected.

Citizens of the FSM live with a democratic political system and a 
hierarchical, traditional culture.  In each of the states, traditional leaders 
hold considerable sway over local governmental activity.  There have 
been a number of local and national elections since the inception of the 
Federated States of Micronesia. Overall, democracy has functioned 
well in the FSM.

ECONOMY

The economy is dependent on government spending, primarily 
supported by funds from the United States.  Under the Compact of Free 
Association, the U.S. is committed to provide to the FSM over $1 
billion in funds and services from 1986 to 2001.  In the FSM, 
government (national and state) employs over half of the country's 
workers.  Other economic activity consists of mainly subsistence-level 
farming and fishing.

Copra and fish account for the major portion of FSM exports.  The 
FSM also sells fishing rights to foreign companies, including firms 
from Taiwan, Japan, the People's Republic of China, and the U.S.  The 
FSM has made the development of agriculture, fisheries, and tourism 
its top priorities.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

The Government of the Federated States of Micronesia conducts its 
own foreign relations.  Since independence, the FSM has established 
diplomatic relations with a number of nations, including most of its 
Pacific neighbors.  Regional cooperation through various multilateral 
organizations is a key element in its foreign policy.  The FSM became 
a member of the United Nations in 1991.

U.S.-MICRONESIAN RELATIONS

The governments of the FSM and the U.S. signed the final version of 
the Compact of Free Association on October 1, 1982.  On November 3, 
1986 the Compact went into effect and the FSM became a sovereign 
nation in free association with the United States.  Under the Compact, 
the United States has full authority and responsibility for the defense of 
the FSM.  This security relationship can be changed or terminated by 
mutual agreement.  The Compact provides U.S. grant funds and federal 
program assistance to the FSM.  The basic relationship of free 
association continues indefinitely, but certain economic and defense 
provisions of the Compact expire in 2001, subject to re-negotiation.

[end of document]

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