Palau Islands, confetti from Oceania to galloping tourism - The360 Travel

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  • Saturday, December 14, 2019

    Palau Islands, confetti from Oceania to galloping tourism

    Palau Islands, confetti from Oceania to galloping tourism

    Independent since 1994, the Palau Islands are a small ocean state that derives nearly 85% of its income from its growing tourism clientele, now mostly Chinese.

    With a population of 17,500, the 458-km2 archipelago contains extraordinary seabeds, scrutinized by international scientists, as well as the world's first shark sanctuary.

    From ancient settlement, resulting from migrations from the Philippines or Indonesia, the rosary of islets has long been the issue of rivalry between colonial powers.

    Palau was administered by Spain (1875-1899), Germany (1899-1914) and Japan, before being the scene of deadly clashes during the Pacific War.

    The United States then made their mark: children learn English and play baseball, the dollar is the national currency, supermarkets sell Spam (canned ham) and peanut butter, cars drive right, even if they are mostly Japanese, with the steering wheel on the right.

    When Barack Obama spends his holidays in Hawaii, his Republican challenger in 2008, John McCain, likes to come to Palau.

    Parliamentary democracy of the presidential type, the island republic has institutions modeled on those of the United States, and even a "Capitol" in the middle of nature, which some consider excessive.

    Still heavily dependent on foreign aid, the country considers its relationship with Washington a priority, notably the maintenance of US funding under the "Compact of Free Association".

    On the Asian side, Palau has close ties with Japan, which in 1944 lost more than 10,000 soldiers on Peleliu Island during a fierce battle by US forces.

    Emperor Akihito will visit Palau in April to pay homage to the dead, a historic visit under high security.

    Taiwan also plays an important role in Palau, which does not maintain diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China and has even experienced tensions with Beijing hosting in 2009 Uighur ex-Guantanamo detainees.

    This does not prevent the Chinese gaining influence in Palau. There are Chinese businessmen in search of land investments, even if the Constitution reserves the ownership of land to Palau only. New construction sites are Chinese.

    So much so that some would like the government to change its mind and recognize Beijing rather than Taipei.

    Communist China wants more weight in the Pacific, "mare nostrum" Washington. Chinese President Xi Jinping recently visited Fiji for this purpose.

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