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An independence referendum for the Micronesian state of Chuuk has been postponed indefinitely. The vote was scheduled to be held alongside national elections in the Federated States of Micronesia on March 5. But a government spokesperson Richard Clark told AFP on 25 February 2019 more time was needed for public education and legal research on the referendum. He said secession as proposed was currently illegal and would need constitutional amendments to proceed.

Chuuk is one of the four states in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the other three being, Yap, Pohnpei and Kosrae. A leading political issue in recent years has been the alleged political dominance of Chuuk State, which held nearly half of the congressional seats. Chuuk State is comprised of the collection of volcanic islands within the Chuuk Lagoon and some 24 outer-island atolls --some 290 islands total. Chuuk is the most populous of the FSM states, with 53,595 people (est. 2000) and a land area of 49 square miles. It is a world-famous location for SCUBA divers, with a sunken WWII Japanese fleet to explore.

It is located approximately 7 degrees north of the equator and on a line of longitude approximately the same as the eastern coast of Australia. The FSM, this 'sea of islands'having a total land mass of 701 sq. kilometres in a current economic exclusion zone of 3 million square kilometresis also referred to as the Caroline Islands and together with the other island groups, the Marshalls and the Marianas, have been referred in the historical record as Micronesia.

Chuuk consists of 19 'high' islands located inside a lagoon called Truk Lagoon, 10 atolls and 225 'low' coralline islands, of which many are located outside the lagoon. The high islands are composed of volcanic rock and are the peaks of a mountainous land mass, their total mass above water being 91 sq. kilometres. The lagoon is about 64 kilometres in diameter and has been formed by a barrier reef enclosing an area of 2,125 sq. kilometres of relatively deep and protected water.

The islands are fringed with many mangroves that support a large and diverse marine life. The fertile high islands contain native trees and plants comprising breadfruit, coconuts, mango, banana and taro that, in association with fish, have supported a subsistence lifestyle for the Chuukese for many years.

Japan took control of Micronesia from 1914 and under a veil of secrecy developed the region to its liking. Following on with its war with China which began in 1931, Japan initiated a war with the USA in the Pacific and as part of this war, they established major bases in Micronesia, one of them being Truk Lagoon. The speed with which Japan struck Pearl Harbor and then captured bases such as Guam, the Philippines and Rabaul was facilitated by the ships and aircraft based in Micronesia and at Truk Lagoon.

Truk became the Imperial Japanese Navy's Fourth Fleet base from November 1939 and the Combined Japanese Navy Fleet were based there from July 1942 to February 1944. Truk Lagoon was regarded by the USA during World War II as the strongest naval base in the Pacific with the exception of Pearl Harbor. Over 37,000 Japanese lived and worked in Truk Lagoon, dominating the 9,000 Chuukese until the end of the war in September 1945. The Japanese Combined Navy Fleet pulled most of its warships out of Truk Lagoon prior to February 1944. Beginning with Operation Hailstone, the base was bombed on February 17 and 18, 1944; again on April 30 and May 1, 1944; then with USA B-24 and B-29 bombers, some on a daily basis over many months, then less frequent until the war's end.

The shipwrecks and aircraft found underwater are a scuba diver's paradise that not only display the range of munitions and equipment used in war, but the incredible beauty of the underwater world. The Truk Lagoon shipwrecks are known as some of the best shipwreck sites to dive in the world. It would be difficult to find anywhere else in the world, 50-60 shipwrecks located in such ideal conditions, and exhibiting the historic and scenic values that these sites contain.

The FSM's treaty with the United States expires in 2023 and the Chuuk Political Status Commission is hopeful that independence for Chuuk could mean getting a better deal in the future. The next vote is scheduled for March 2019 during the Chuuk Legislature's mid-term election.

The commission, created under Chuuk law, has been holding public meetings back home in Chuuk and in places with Chuukese citizens, like Guam, Hawaii and the US mainland. The federal treaty allows FSM citizens to live and work in the United States. Most relocated citizens live on Guam, followed by Hawaii. The commission's goal is for Chuuk to secede from the FSM and renegotiate a separate Compact of Free Association with the United States. But some from Chuuk think the idea of pursuing independence is premature, with unclear consequences.

There was supposed to be a vote on the plebiscite in 2015, but it was postponed to allow the commission to gather more information and provide more time to inform Chuuk citizens. One question that needed to be answered is whether it is legal for Chuuk to secede from the FSM. Attorneys for the commission informed them that there was no provision in the FSM constitution that prevents a state from seceding.

Elections were last held on 7 March 2017 (next to be held in March 2019).

Truk / Chuuk Truk / Chuuk Truk / Chuuk

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