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Palau Islands changing to independent Belau

The Palau Islands, an American ward in the Pacific since World War II, will become the Republic of Belau on Jan. 1, a spokesman said. The Palau Islands were captured by US forces from the Japanese in World War II and have been administered by the United States through a UN trusteeship since 1947. The republic will have a free-association compact with the US, giving the islands self-government but leaving defense and some foreign-affairs duties in American hands.