The Marshall Islands consist of two chains of coral atolls, together with more than 1,000 islets, just north of the Equator.
The atolls are coral deposits on the crater rims of submerged volcanoes.
The islands were occupied by the US for several decades after the Second World War. They are now a sovereign nation under a Compact of Free Association with the US which came into force in 1986 and was renegotiated in 2003.
The US controls the security and defence of the islands and provides millions of dollars in aid every year. The US rents the Kwajalein atoll as a base and missile test range.
The legacy of the post-war US occupation is seen particularly starkly on Bikini and Enewetak, which were both used for nuclear weapons testing between 1946 and 1958.
Climate change threatens the very existence of the islands. Many atolls lie barely a metre above sea level and are at risk being engulfed by rising waters.
- Republic of the Marshall Islands
- Capital: Majuro
- Population 55,000
- Area 181 sq km (70 sq miles)
- Major languages Marshallese, English
- Major religion Christianity
- Life expectancy 67 years (men), 71 years (women)
- Currency US dollar