After the defeat of Germany and the Paris Peace Conference, the League of Nations was established in January 1920 to strengthen worldwide security and provide a peaceful method of conflict-resolution. Former German colonial territories were distributed by means of a series of ‘mandates’ under Article 22 of the League’s Covenant. Since the mid-19th century German traders had been building up a network of trading ports and colonies in the south Pacific, possessions that collectively became known as German New Guinea. Under the Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902, which had in fact been drafted to curb Russian expansion, the British and the Japanese attacked the German navy in the Pacific when the Germans declared war in Europe in 1914, and the Japanese occupied most of the previously German-held islands, including the Palaus, the Marianas, the Carolines, and the Marshalls. After the war, the islands south of the equator, including the area of New Guinea proper which had been Kaiser-Wilhelmsland, were mandated to Australia, and the northern islands were mandated to Japan, which gradually absorbed them into its growing empire, establishing a naval base and command centre at Truk and an important administrative hub at Saipan. The small British mandated area contained a number of tiny, undeveloped atolls.
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