|Official Country Name:||Republic of the Marshall Islands|
|Region (Map name):||Oceania|
|Language(s):||English, Marshallese, Japanese|
The Marshall Islands is perhaps best known for its impact on American swimwear—the bikini takes its name from one of the country's more than a thousand islands. Located in the North Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Papua New Guinea, the country became a battleground in the Pacific Theater during World War II. The United States took over the country's administration after the war, but the islands remained under siege as the United States conducted nuclear tests on several islands between 1947 and 1962. The U.S. government has since paid out more than $100 million in damages, but many areas remain contaminated. Bikini Island, for example, is uninhabitable as a result of this testing.
The Marshall Islands received its independence in 1986 under a Compact of Free Association, but still retains close ties to America. The estimated population is 68,000. The official language is Marshallese, but English also is spoken. The literacy rate is approximately 93 percent. The government and the state are headed by a president, who also presides over a 33-seat, unicameral parliament. U.S. governmental assistance is the mainstay of the Marshallese economy, but agriculture also is important, especially coconuts, tomatoes, melons and breadfruit. The tourism industry is a small but growing economic sector.
Press and speech freedoms generally are respected, but journalists sometimes avoid sensitive political issues. There is no daily newspaper. The Marshall Islands Journal is a privately owned weekly newspaper that provides national and international coverage of news, politics, and events in English and Marshallese. The Marshall Islands Gazette appears monthly. It is owned by the government and avoids political coverage.
There are seven radio stations, three AM and four FM. There are three television stations, two of which are associated with the U.S. military, and one Internet service provider.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). "Marshall Islands." World Fact Book, 2001. Available from http://www.cia.gov/ .
"Country Profile: Marshall Islands." BBC News, 2002. Available from http://news.bbc.co.uk/ .
Jenny B. Davis