/div>Island country, western Pacific Ocean. Area: 188 sq mi (488 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 20,400. Capital: Melekeok. The population is of mixed Malay, Melanesian, Filipino, and Polynesian ancestry. Languages: Palauan, English (both official). Religion: Christianity (mostly Roman Catholic; also Protestant, other Christians). Currency: U.S. dollar. The islands of the Palau group are fertile, with mangrove swamps along the coasts, backed by savanna and palms rising to rainforests in the hills. The major source of employment is government service. Subsistence farming and fishing are the main occupations in the rural areas. Palau is a republic with two legislative houses; its head of state and government is the president. The islands had been under nominal Spanish ownership when they were sold to Germany in 1899. They were seized by Japan in 1914 and taken by Allied forces in 1944 during World War II. Palau became part of the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947 and became a sovereign state in 1994; the U.S. provides economic assistance and maintains a military presence in the islands.