Courtesy Reuters

MEASURED in terms of area or of population the Virgin Islands, acquired by the United States in 1917, do not seem very important. The fifty-odd islands and islets of this diminutive American possession cover in all no more than 140 square miles, and the three which are sufficiently large to be inhabited by settled communities -- St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix -- have a combined population of only 25,500.

There are two reasons why the Virgin Islands are interesting and important to a far greater degree than is suggested by these statistics. First, they are of strategic value to the United

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