Northern Mariana Islands

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The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is a commonwealth in political union with the United States of America at a strategic location in the West Pacific Ocean. It consists of 14 islands about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines, at 15° 1′ 2″ N, 145° 4′ 5″ E. It has a population (2005 est) of 80,362.

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Flag of the Northern Mariana Islands Coat of arms of Northern Mariana Islands
(In Detail) (In Detail)
National motto:
Official languages English, Chamorro, Carolinian
Capital Saipan
Chief of state George W. Bush
Governor Juan N. Babauta
Resident Representative Pedro Agulto Tenorio
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 230th
477 km²
 - Total (2003)
 - Density
Ranked N/A
80,006 (July 2003 est.)
Independence none (in political union with the USA)
Currency US dollar (USD)
Time zone UTC+10
National anthem Gi Talo Gi Halom Tase
Internet TLD .mp
Calling Code +1 670


Geography and Climate

Together with Guam to the south, a United States territory, the Northern Mariana Islands make up the Island Arc of the Mariana Islands.

The southern islands are limestone with level terraces and fringing coral reefs; the northern islands are volcanic, with active volcanoes on Anatahan, Pagan and Agrihan. The volcano on Agrihan is the highest elevation in the islands at 965 meters. About one-fifth of the land is arable, another tenth is permanent pasture. The primary natural resource is fish, which causes conflict with the protection of endangered species. Past development has created landfills that must be cleaned up and has caused contamination of groundwater on Saipan, which may contribute to disease.

The islands have over 350 kilometers of highways, three airports with paved runways (one some 3,000 meters (9,840 feet) long, two around 2,000 (6560 feet) meters), three airports with unpaved runways (one about 3,000 meters long, two under 1,000 (3280 feet) meters), and one heliport.

Anatahan Volcano is a small volcanic island located 120 km (80 miles) north of Saipan Island and 320 km (200 miles) north of Guam. The island is about 9 km (5.6 miles) long and 3 km (2 miles) wide. Anatahan began erupting suddenly from its east crater at about 5:00 p.m. on May 10, 2003.

Map of the Northern Mariana Islands
Map of the Northern Mariana Islands

Since then it has continued to alternate between eruptive and calm periods. On April 6, 2005, approximately 50,000 cubic meters of ash and rock were ejected, causing a large, black cloud to drift southward over Saipan and Tinian. Recent eruptions have caused some commercial flights to re-route.

The islands have a tropical marine climate moderated by seasonal northeast trade winds. There is little seasonal temperature variation; the dry season runs from December to June, the rainy season from July to October can include typhoons.


The first European in these waters was Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, who landed on nearby Guam and claimed the islands for Spain. Angry at larcenous natives, he first dubbed the islands "Las Islas de los Ladrones", (The Islands of the Thieves), but in 1668 their name was changed to Las Marianas after Mariana of Austria, widow of Spain's Philip IV. Nearly all of the islands' native population died out during Spanish rule, but new settlers from modern-day Micronesia repopulated them to some extent. Sold to Germany in 1899, the Japanese took over in 1914 and turned the island into a military garrison. On June 15, 1944, during World War II, U.S. Marines landed on the islands and eventually won the bitterly fought three-week Battle of Saipan.

After Japan's defeat, the islands were administered by the United States as part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands; thus, defense and foreign affairs are the responsibility of the U.S. The people of the Northern Mariana Islands decided in the 1970s not to seek independence, but instead to forge closer links with the U.S. Negotiations for territorial status began in 1972. A covenant to establish a commonwealth in political union with the U.S. was approved in 1975. A new government and constitution went into effect in 1978.

On September 23, 2004 Congressman Richard Pombo of California introduced H.R. 5135 - the Northern Mariana Islands Delegate Act. The bill, had it become law, would have allowed CNMI to elect a non-voting delegate to the United States House of Representatives starting with the 2006 election. The bill died at the end of the 108th Congress. But, on February 18, 2005, the Delegate Act was reintroduced by Pombo with a new number, H.R. 873. [1] The Northen Mariana Islands have also come into the news recently due to their connection to the scandals involving Jack Abramoff and House Majority Leader Tom Delay. [2]


See main article Economy of the Northern Mariana Islands

Current Northern Mariana Islands license plate.
Current Northern Mariana Islands license plate.

The economy of the Northern Marina Islands depends primarily on tourism, especially, from Japan, and the rapidly growing garment manufacturing sector. The Commonwealth also benefits from substantial subsidies and development assistance from the federal government of the United States.

The Northern Marina Islands had successfully exploited its position of being in a free trade area with the United States, while at the same time not being subject to the same labor laws as it. This means that the minimum wage in the Commonwealth is lower than in the US, and some other worker protections are weaker leading to lower production costs. In addition, a different immigration régime meant that a large number of Chinese migrant workers were employed in the Islands' garment trade.

However, the lifting of World Trade Organisation restrictions on Chinese imports to the United States has put the Commonwealth-based trade under severe pressure, leading to a number of factory closures.

Agricultural production, primarily of cattle, coconuts, breadfruit, tomatoes and melons exists, but is of relatively minor economic import.

Islands, Island Groups and Municipalities

The islands total some 477 square kilometers. An overview is presented next, with the individual islands from North to South:

No. Island Area (km2) Population
Census 2000
Height (m) Highest Peak Location
1 Farallon de Pajaros (Urracas) 2.0 0 319 20°33′ N 144°54′ E
2 Maug Islands 2.0 occupied 1939-44 227 (North Island) 20°02′ N 145°19′ E
3 Asuncion 7.4 0 891 19°43′ N 145°41′ W
4 Agrihan (Agrigan) 40.0 evacuated 1990 965 Mount Tapochao 18°46′ N 145°40′ W
5 Pagan 46.6 evacuated 1990 579 Mount Pagan 18°08′ 36 N°145′ 47
6 Alamagan 11.0 6 744 Bandeera 17°35′ N 145°50′ W
7 Guguan 4.0 0 301 17°20′ N 145°51′ W
8 Zealandia Bank >0.0 0 >0 16°45′ N 145°42′ W
9 Sarigan 4.9 formerly inhab. 549 16°43′ N 145°47′ W
10 Anatahan 30.8 evacuated 1990 787 16°22′ N 145°40′ W
11 Farallon de Medinilla 0.9 0 81 16°01′ N 146°04′ W
12 Saipan 122.9 62 392 474 Mount Tagpochau 15°11′ 06 N°145′ 44
13 Tinian 102.0 3 540 170 Kastiyu (Lasso Hill) 14°57′ 12 N°145′ 38
14 Aguijan (Agiguan) 7.0 0 157 14°42′ N 145°18′ W
15 Rota 95.7 3 283 491 Sabana 14°08′ 37 N°145′ 11
NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS 477.2 69 221 965 Mount Tapochao 14°08' to 20°33'N,
144°54° to 146°04'E

Administratively, the CNMI is divided into four municipalities:

Islands 1 through 11 are collective known as the Northern Islands, together forming the Northern Islands Municipality. Islands 12 through 15 are collectively known as the Southern Islands, with the municipalities Saipan, Tinian, and Rota (uninhabited Aguijan is part of Tinian municipality).

Because of volcanic threat, the northern islands have been largely evacuated, with just six people remaining on Alamagan island (Census of 2000), and with the Mayor of the Northern Islands Municipality residing in "exile" on Saipan.

Saipan, Tinian, and Rota have the only ports and harbors, and are the only permanently populated islands.

From the CIA World Factbook 2000. Little Wikification.

See also

External links

Flag of the Northern Mariana Islands

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
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