Trump has expressed interest in the self-governing Danish territory – which is mostly covered in ice – asking advisers if it is possible for the US to acquire the island, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the discussions.
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The president has been curious about the area’s natural resources and geopolitical relevance, the paper reported.
Another source later told the Associated Press news agency that Trump has discussed the purchase but was not serious about it.
There was no immediate official comment from either the White House or the Danish government but some officials in the Scandinavian country have poured scorn on the idea of selling Greenland.
“It has to be an April Fool’s joke. Totally out of season,” former Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said on Twitter on Thursday.
“If he is truly contemplating this, then this is the final proof that he has gone mad,” Soren Espersen, foreign affairs spokesman for the right-wing Danish People’s Party told broadcaster DR.
The mood on Greenland was similarly unimpressed, with Aaja Chemnitz Larsen, an MP from the island’s second-largest party, Inuit Ataqatigiit, telling Reuters news agency:
“My immediate thought is ‘No, thank you”.
Some Trump advisers say acquiring Greenland, which is northeast of Canada, could be good for the US, while others call it only a “fleeting fascination” of the president, the Wall Street Journal said.
Others outside the White House say Trump’s interest could lie in a desire to secure a legacy achievement, the paper reported, and advisers wondered about the potential for research or greater military clout for the US.
Military might and Chinese interest
The world’s largest island, Greenland, was colonised by Denmark in the 18th century. It is home to nearly 57,000 people, most of whom belong to the indigenous Inuit community.
Greenland houses the US’s northernmost military base – Thule Air Base – and is important for the US military and its ballistic missile early warning system.
In 1946, then-US President Harry Truman offered to buy the island for $100m.
China has also shown increasing interest in the icy outpost, initially bidding to fund a controversial airport expansion project on the island. Beijing had previously announced plans to build a “Polar Silk Road” of shipping lanes opened up by global warming in the Arctic.
“For the US and for NATO partners, keeping Greenlanders and the Greenland government – where it’s independent or not – inside the transatlantic Alliance is absolutely critical,” Mikaa Mered, a professor of Arctic and Antarctic geopolitics at the Paris-based Free Institute of International Relations Studies (ILERI) told Al Jazeera last year.
“On the other hand, you have countries like China who see that there is a huge opportunity to gain some land or real estate in Greenland or to set up Greenland, when it becomes independent, as a kind of client state,” he said.
Following a referendum in 2009, Greenland has had the power to declare independence from Denmark at any time, but it continues to face financial obstacles, with almost half of the island’s budget coming from a block grant from Copenhagen.
Climate change emergency
Some 85 percent of the two million square metres island is covered by a 3km-thick ice sheet that contains 10 percent of the world’s freshwater.
It has suffered from climate change, scientists say, becoming a giant melting icicle that threatens to submerge the world’s coastal areas one day.
July saw unprecedented melting of the Greenland ice sheet, with 12 billion tonnes of ice flowing into the sea.
However, Greenland may be poised to benefit from the thaw, as sediment released by the melting ice sheets may help to meet the rising global demand for sand, boosting the island’s economic autonomy and prospects for independence.
Trump, who in 2017 withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Agreement to cap global warming levels, is reportedly set to visit the Danish capital, Copenhagen, in September. However, there has been no indication that a Greenland purchase will be on the agenda for talks.
This is not the first time Trump has expressed interest in foreign properties. He has previously said that North Korea‘s “great beaches” would make ideal locations for condos.
Additional reporting by Charlotte Mitchell: @