Changing Status of Micronesia

June 6, 1975

Report Outline
Issues Over Status of the Islands
Micronesia Under Foreign Control
Problems for Micronesian Progress
Special Focus

Issues Over Status of the Islands

Approaching Decisions on Ending U.S. Trusteeship

America may soon acquire its first new territory in half a century. On Feb. 15, representatives of the remote Mariana Islands signed a covenant with the United States setting down the terms by which they hope to become an American commonwealth. If approved by the islanders in a plebiscite on June 17, and subsequently by the U.S. Congress and the United Nations, the covenant will create a new group of American citizens. It will also create new long-term financial and military commitments for the United States in the Western Pacific.

The fate of these small islands—fewer than 15,000 inhabitants live on 183.5 square miles of land—promises to raise large issues. The agreement with the Marianas will only partly resolve a dilemma, marked by conflicting humanitarian and strategic obligations, which has confronted America for almost 30 years. Since 1947 the Marianas have been one of six districts comprising the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (Ttpi) which is administered by the United States under a unique “strategic trusteeship” agreement with the United Nations. The Trust Territory is known as Micronesia.

In geographic terms, Micronesia is one of the three divisions of Pacific Islands. The other two are (1) Melanesia, which includes the Solomons, New Hebrides, New Caledonia and Fiji islands to the south, and (2) Polynesia, which includes the Hawaiian Islands to the east and Samoa, Tonga and others to the southeast. Geographically, Micronesia includes Guam (southernmost of the Mariana chain) and the Gilbert Islands. In political terms, however, these are considered separate; Guam is an unincorporated American territory, and the Gilberts are under British administration.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
U.S. Policy in the Pacific
Apr. 20, 1990  Should the U.S. Reduce Its Pacific Forces?
Apr. 07, 1989  Pacific Rim Challenges
Apr. 25, 1986  The Strategic Pacific
Jul. 05, 1985  Dawn of the Pacific Era
Jun. 06, 1975  Changing Status of Micronesia
Aug. 17, 1966  Australia: Pacific Ally
Nov. 04, 1964  Indonesia vs. Malaysia
Jul. 24, 1963  Malaysian Federation: Union of Convenience
Jul. 05, 1962  West New Guinea: Pacific Trouble Spot
Jan. 28, 1953  Pacific Defense
Sep. 09, 1949  Pacific Dependencies
May 03, 1945  Trusteeship in the Pacific
Regional Political Affairs: East Asia and the Pacific