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Sunday, January 11, 2009


It is neither easy nor especially useful to generalise about the vast, sparsely populated region of the Pacific Ocean, which covers one-quarter of the Earth's surface. The myriad small islands peppered across the ocean all have unique features of geography, economy and political history. Some are genuinely independent, some internally self-governing with foreign and security policies controlled elsewhere, while a handful remain colonies.The military influx during the 1970s and 1980s has left a legacy of airfields, storage depots, port complexes, intelligence-gathering, early-warning and other ‘support' facilities. The host governments are often in two minds about their presence - the bases put these small nations in a diplomatic straitjacket, and offer a series of targets for hostile forces. On the other hand, they are guaranteed military protection, rental income and economic aid.But islanders are well aware that they must develop their own economic systems to survive, and have focused on principal areas. One of these is tourism. Much of the region is within reach of the North American traveller, although difficult for others both financially and in terms of transport.