country consisting principally of three groups of atolls in the WC Pacific, east of the Solomon Islands: formerly a British territory, it became independent & a member of the Commonwealth (1979): 277 sq mi (717 sq km); pop. 72,000; cap. Tarawa
An island country of the west-central Pacific Ocean near the equator. It includes the former Gilbert Islands, Banaba (Ocean Island), and the Phoenix and Line islands. Settled by Austronesian peoples before the 1st century AD, the islands, together with the Ellice Islands, became a British protectorate (1892–1916) and subsequently a crown colony under the name the Gilbert and Ellice Island Colony. The Ellice Islands gained independence (1978) as Tuvalu and the remaining islands (1979) as Kiribati. Tarawa is the capital.