Modern Flag of Timor-Leste
The United States recognized Timor-Leste, then known as East Timor, on May 20, 2002, when it achieved formal independence. Before this time, the region had been a Portuguese colony up until 1975 and was under Indonesian sovereignty from 1976 to 1999. After a popular referendum in 1999, held under UN auspices, the International Force for East Timor kept the peace until formal independence was established in 2002.
The United States and Timor-Leste (East Timor) established diplomatic relations on May 20, 2002, when the United States opened an Embassy in Dili. It opened under the leadership of Chargé d’Affaires Shari Villarossa. Grover Rees 3rd became the first U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste when he presented his credentials on December 10, 2002.