Oceania is a region centred on the continent of Australia and the many island groups scattered across the Pacific Ocean including Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. It covers a land area of 3,285,048 miles (8,508,238 sq km).
Vast expanses of ocean separate this geographically fragmented realm, characterised more by each country’s isolation than by any political unity. Australia’s and New Zealand’s traditional ties with the United Kingdom, as members of the Commonwealth, are now being called into question as Australasian and Oceanian nations are increasingly looking to forage new relationships with neighbouring Asian countries like Japan and China. External influences have featured strongly in the politics of the Pacific Islands; the various territories of Micronesia were largely under US control until the late 1980’s, and France, New Zealand, the USA and the UK still have territories under colonial rule in Polynesia. Nuclear weapons-testing by Western superpowers was widespread during the Cold War period, but has now been discontinued.