Geographic and Governmental Profile of Northern Mariana Islands

Under US administration as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific, the people of the Northern Mariana Islands decided in the 1970s not to seek independence but instead to forge closer links with the US. Negotiations for territorial status began in 1972. A covenant to establish a commonwealth in political union with the US was approved in 1975, and came into force on 24 March 1976. A new government and constitution went into effect in 1978.
Oceania, islands in the North Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines
Geographic coordinates
15 12 N, 145 45 E
Continent / Subcontinent
464 sq km
464 sq km
0 sq km
consists of 14 islands including Saipan, Rota, and Tinian
Area - comparative
2.5 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries
0 km
1,482 km
Maritime claims
territorial sea:
12 nm
exclusive economic zone:
200 nm
tropical marine; moderated by northeast trade winds, little seasonal temperature variation; dry season December to June, rainy season July to October
southern islands are limestone with level terraces and fringing coral reefs; northern islands are volcanic
Elevation extremes
lowest point:
Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point:
unnamed elevation on Agrihan 965 m
Natural resources
arable land, fish
Land use
arable land:
permanent crops:
82.61% (2005)
Get Chart Code
Get Chart Code
Irrigated land
1 sq km
Natural hazards
active volcanoes on Pagan and Agrihan; typhoons (especially August to November)
Environment - current issues
contamination of groundwater on Saipan may contribute to disease; clean-up of landfill; protection of endangered species conflicts with development
Geography - note
strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean
Country name
conventional long form:
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
conventional short form:
Northern Mariana Islands
Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, Mariana Islands District
Dependency status
commonwealth in political union with the US; federal funds to the Commonwealth administered by the US Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs
Government type
commonwealth; self-governing with locally elected governor, lieutenant governor, and legislature
geographic coordinates:
15 12 N, 145 45 E
time difference:
UTC+10 (15 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions
none (commonwealth in political union with the US); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are four municipalities at the second order: Northern Islands, Rota, Saipan, Tinian
none (commonwealth in political union with the US)
Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands effective 1 January 1978; Covenant Agreement fully effective 4 November 1986
Legal system
US system applies, except for customs, wages, immigration laws, and taxation
18 years of age; universal; note - indigenous inhabitants are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections
Executive branch
chief of state:
President Barack H. OBAMA (since 20 January 2009); Vice President Joseph R. BIDEN (since 20 January 2009)
head of government:
Governor Benigno R. FITIAL (since 9 January 2006); Lieutenant Governor Eloy S. INOS (since 1 May 2009)
the cabinet consists of the heads of the 10 principal departments under the executive branch who are appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate; other members include special assistants to the governor and office heads appointed by and reporting directly to the governor
under the US Constitution, residents of unincorporated territories, such as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, do not vote in elections for US president and vice president; however, they may vote in the Democratic and Republican party presidential primary elections; governor and lieutenant governor elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms (eligible for a second term); election last held on 7 November 2009 with a run-off election held on 23 November 2009 (next to be held in 2013)
election results:
Benigno R. FITIAL reelected governor in a run-off election held 23 November 2009; percent of vote - Benigno R. FITIAL 51.4%, Heinz HOFSCHNEIDER 48.6%
Legislative branch
bicameral legislature consists of the Senate (9 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year staggered terms) and the House of Representatives (20 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve two-year terms)
Senate - last held on 7 November 2009 (next to be held in November 2011); House of Representatives - last held on 7 November 2009 (next to be held in November 2011)
election results:
Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Covenant Party 3, Republican Party 3, Democratic Party 1, independents 2; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Republican Party 12, Covenant Party 4, Democratic Party 1, independents 3
the Northern Mariana Islands elects one nonvoting delegate to the US House of Representatives; election last held on 2 November 2010 (next to be held in November 2012); seats by party - independent 1
Judicial branch
Commonwealth Supreme Court (consists of three justices appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Commonwealth Senate; appeals of Commonwealth Supreme Court decisions referred to the US Supreme Court); Superior Court (consists of five judges appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Commonwealth Senate); US Federal District Court (judges are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the US Senate)
Political parties and leaders
Covenant Party [Benigno R. FITIAL]; Democratic Party [Dr. Carlos S. CAMACHO]; Republican Party [Juan S. REYES]
Political pressure groups and leaders
International organization participation
Flag description
blue, with a white, five-pointed star superimposed on a gray latte stone (the traditional foundation stone used in building) in the center, surrounded by a wreath; blue symbolizes the Pacific Ocean, the star represents the Commonwealth; the latte stone and the floral head wreath display elements of the native Chamorro culture
National symbol(s)
latte stone
National anthem
"Gi Talo Gi Halom Tasi" (In the Middle of the Sea)
Jose S. PANGELINAN [Chamoru], David PETER [Carolinian]/Wilhelm GANZHORN
adopted 1996; the Carolinian version of the song is known as "Satil Matawal Pacifico;" as a commonwealth of the United States, in addition to the local anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner" is official (see United States)
Data source 1: All Above textual data, maps and flags were extracted from The World Factbook which was prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency and made available on the following link: The World Factbook. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsered or affiliated, in any way, by the US Central Intelligence Agency
Data source 2: Plots and Charts are constructed using the world bank public data catalog which can be viewed by visiting the following link: World Bank Data Catalog. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsored or affiliated, in any way, by the worldbank

Comments are closed.