The Republic of the Marshall Islands is situated nearly midway between Hawaii and the Philippines, and is the easternmost island group in Micronesia. The capital city is Majuro. The country consists of two parallel chains of atolls and islands in the central Pacific Ocean, known as the Ratak (Sunrise) chain and Ralik (Sunset) chain. Together, the Marshall Islands is comprised of approximately 1,225 islands and islets, which spread across an ocean area of 1.9 million square kilometers.
British Naval Captain John William Marshall gave his name to the area now known as the Marshall Islands in the 1700s. However, the islands have been under the control of various nations throughout the last few centuries including Spain from the late 1400s to the late 1800s, Germany from 1885 to World War I and Japan from 1914 to World War II. After World War II, the Marshall Islands became a part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands under United States (US) administration.
The Government of the Marshall Islands was officially established in 1978 following the signing of the Constitution, which represents a blend of the US and British models of government. The islands gained their independence in 1986 after signing the Compact of Free Association with the US. The Marshall Islands became a full member of the United Nations in 1991, and has since established diplomatic relations with most of the world’s major maritime and industrial nations.
Agricultural production is concentrated on small farms and the most important commercial crops are coconuts and breadfruit. Small-scale industry is limited to handicrafts, tuna processing, and copra. The Marshall Islands also has a small but growing tourist industry. The monetary unit is the US dollar.