The answer to if Palau owned by America a tough one to summarize, but technically at least no it is not, Palau is an independent republic, as in the Republic of Palau. It is though in a Compact of Free Association with the United States, which makes things get to say the least.
Who has owned Palau?
Settled 3000 years ago Palau has and is a Micronesian “country”. The colonialists arrived in 1885 when it was made part of the Spanish East-Indies, a short lived affair, before the Germans added it to their colonies in New Guinea in 1899.
Then the dastardly Germans lost World War 1 and Japan took over, turning it into part of its South Seas Mandate. How Japan behaved in this time period is open for debate, but local culture was certainly quashed.
It did though lead to a continued Japanese presence in Palau, something we recently witnessed in Carp Restaurant, owned by a Hiroshima survivor.
World War 2 of course followed which led to the infamous Battle of Peleliu, as well as some of the longest Japanese holdouts after surrender.
Palau then become a Trust Territory of the United States.
Was Palau owned by America?
The short answer to this is yes indeed it was, even if the US would fight this at the United Nations (UN). At the time the United States were lecturing Europe about giving up colonies whilst arguable keeping their own. Nowadays see Guam, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa and even Puerto Rico.
There was though constant talk of independence, which would come at different times for the trust territories.
Palau owned by America no more?
In the late 1970’s the country voted against joining the soon to be independent Federated States of Micronesia, instead staying under the US until 1994 when it gained so called “full independence”.
What this actually meant though was the Compact of Free Association, which I will write more about later. This basically says that the US is in charge of defense, has a fair say in foreign policy and get some, but not all benefits of being American.
What is the current situation and what do Palauans think of it?
Essentially Palau have their own President, sports teams and passports, buy they exist in a similar way to the Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom – yes they are mostly independent, but the US holds major clout.
This has been seen with the many military bases, nuclear tests and even diplomatic relations of the region. It really is no surprise that all COFA states “recognize” Taiwan, thus giving Taiwan a back channel with the USA and Taiwan UN access – allegedly……
Palau also is politically hands off with China, while simultaneously vying for their custom.
Why does Palau do this?
We had an interesting chat with some Palauan guys at Canoe bar who had a really interesting take on things. To them at least their country was too Americanized compared to other countries in the region, with even their parliament resembling that of the USA.
This though was not the only thing they had gripes about, with American business also getting favourable terms which have at times been to the detriment of locals. United Airlines, who are not great famously just undercut an airline from Palau who now no longer exist.
Americans and their companies can enter the Palau market much easier than most.
The same people though said the financial “incentives” were too much for them to walk away. Taxation without representation? Perhaps, but if it works it works, for it is sure not easy being a small Pacific Island nation.
To read what counts as a country click here.