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Palau, officially the Republic of Palau, is an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is geographically part of the larger island group of Micronesia. The country's population of around 21,000 is spread across 250 islands forming the western chain of the Caroline Islands. The most populous island is Koror. The islands share maritime boundaries with Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Federated States of Micronesia. The capital Ngerulmud is located in Melekeok State on the nearby island of Babeldaob.
The coral atoll of Kayangel is north of these islands, while the uninhabited Rock Islands are west of the main island group. A remote group of six islands, known as the Southwest Islands, some 375 miles from the main islands, make up the states of Hatohobei and Sonsorol.
Palau has a tropical climate with an annual mean temperature of 82 °F. Rainfall is heavy throughout the year, averaging 150 inches. The average humidity is 82% and although rain falls more frequently between July and October, there is still much sunshine. Typhoons are rare, as Palau is outside the main typhoon zone.
The country's two official languages are Palauan and English, with Japanese, Sonsorolese, and Tobian recognised as regional languages.
The German and Japanese occupations of Palau both subsidized missionaries to follow the Spanish. Three quarters of the population are Christians, while Modekngei and the ancient Palauan religion are commonly observed. Japanese rule brought Mahayana Buddhism and Shinto to Palau, which were the majority religions among Japanese settlers.