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East Timor and the Pacific Islands

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East Timor, officially the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, is a country in Southeast Asia comprising the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecussi-Ambeno, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor. The small country of 5,376 square miles (14,609 square kilometres) is located about 400 miles (640 km) northwest of Darwin, Australia.

The name Timor derives from timor or timur, the word for 'east' in Malay as well as Indonesian, which became Timor in Portuguese. The Portuguese name Timor-Leste and the Tetum name Timor Lorosa'e are sometimes used in English. Lorosa'e (the word for 'east' in Tetum) literally means 'rising sun'.

East Timor has the lowest per capita GDP (Purchasing Power Parity adjusted) in the world, of only $400 (which corresponds to the 192nd position.) However, its Human Development Index, or HDI, it is in 142nd place among the world's nations, which corresponds to medium human development.

Colonized by Portugal in the 16th century, East Timor was known as Portuguese Timor for centuries. It was invaded by Indonesia in 1975, which occupied it until 1999. Following the UN-sponsored act of self-determination that year, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory, which achieved full independence on May 20, 2002, becoming the first new country of the 21st century. With the Philippines, East Timor is one of only two predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia, and the only Portuguese-speaking sovereign state in Asia.

The island of Timor is part of the Malay archipelago and the largest and easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands. To the north of the mountainous island are the Ombai Strait and Wetar Strait, to the south the Timor Sea separates the island from Australia, while to the west lies the Indonesian Province of East Nusa Tenggara. The highest point of East Timor is Mount Ramelau (also known as Mount Tatamailau) at 2,963 meters (9,721 ft).

The local climate is tropical and generally hot and humid, characterised by distinct rainy and dry seasons. The capital, largest city and main port is Dili, and the second-largest city is the eastern town of Baucau. Dili has the only functioning international airport, though there are airstrips in Baucau and Oecusse used for domestic flights. Dili's airport runway is unable to accommodate large aircraft (upto a 737 or a C-130).

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