Palau, officially the Republic of Palau, is an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is makes up part of the larger island group of Micronesia. The country's population of around 21,000 is spread across 250 islands, which forms the western chain of the Caroline Islands. The capital Ngerulmud is located in Melekeok State on the nearby island of Babeldaob. The islands share maritime boundaries with Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Federated States of Micronesia. Politically, Palau became independent in 1994 after being run by the US and is now a presidential republic in free association with the United States, which provides defense, funding, and access to social services.