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Federated States of Micronesia, History

Pottery pieces and other archaeological evidence suggest the ancestors of today’s Micronesians settled the islands as early as ad 200. There are ruins in Kosrae state that date back to the 13th or 14th century. The ruins of Nan Madol, near the island of Pohnpei, consist of nearly 100 artificial islets. These stone structures served as the walled fortress of a kingdom that was powerful during the 13th century.

In the early 1500s Spanish explorers became the first Europeans to sight the islands. However, foreign influence was not significant until the early 1800s when American and British whalers began frequenting the islands. Missionary activities and a trade in coconut oil occurred by the mid-19th century. In the 1880s Spain unsuccessfully attempted to extend its control over the Caroline Islands (what is now the FSM and Palau). After the Spanish-American War in 1898, Spain lost its colonial empire in the Pacific and the Carolines came under German colonial rule. With the onset of World War I in 1914, Japan occupied the islands. Eventually, the Japanese-held islands in the region, which included the Caroline Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Marshall Islands, became a League of Nations mandated territory.

Micronesia was a major battleground during World War II (1939-1945). The United States occupied the islands at the war’s end. In 1947 the islands came under U.S. administration, as the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, under the authority of the United Nations. United States interest in the trust territory was primarily strategic. American-style political institutions were introduced, but little economic development took place.

Negotiations for self-government in Micronesia began in the late 1960s with the assumption that a single nation would emerge from the trust territory. Fragmentation occurred during the 1970s, however, and differences in culture, history, and self-interest made unity impossible. The three island groups with the greatest strategic value—the Northern Marianas, the Marshall Islands and Palau—demanded to chart their own futures. In spite of differences, the districts of Kosrae, Pohnpei (then Ponape), Chuuk (then Truk), and Yap were given little option but to remain together. They ratified a constitution in 1979 that established the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). In 1986 the FSM and the United States signed the Compact of Free Association, officially making the FSM an internally sovereign, self-governing state. Under the compact, the United States assumes full responsibility for the FSM’s defense and provides the FSM with regular economic assistance in the form of U.S. grant funds and federal program assistance. These provisions were set to expire in November 2001. If an agreement for new provisions was not reached by then, the original terms were to be extended for two years. Other provisions of the compact, including the status of free association, continue indefinitely.

 

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