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The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is a Micronesian nation of atolls and islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, just west of the International Date Line and just north of the Equator. The population is about 62,000. In 1986 independence was attained under a Compact of Free Association with the United States.
The islands are located north of Nauru and Kiribati, east of the Federated States of Micronesia, and south of the U.S. territory of Wake Island, to which it lays claim.
The country consists of 29 atolls and 5 isolated islands. The atolls and islands form two groups: the Ratak Chain and the Ralik Chain (meaning "sunrise" and "sunset" chains). 24 of them are inhabited.
The Marshallese are of Micronesian origin and migrated from Asia several thousand years ago. A minority of Marshallese have some recent Asian ancestry, mainly Japanese. Two-thirds of the nation's population lives on Majuro, the capital, and Ebeye. The outer islands are sparsely populated due to lack of employment opportunities and economic development. Life on the outer atolls is generally traditional.
The official language of the Marshall Islands is Marshallese, but is common to speak the English language.
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