“Greenland is not Danish. Greenland is Greenlandic,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told reporters on Sunday during a visit to the world’s largest island.
“I persistently hope that this is not something that is seriously meant.”
Frederiksen, who became prime minister on June 27, was on a planned two-day trip to Greenland before travelling to nearby Iceland for a meeting of Nordic prime ministers.
“Thankfully, the time where you buy and sell other countries and populations is over. Let’s leave it there. Jokes aside, we will, of course, love to have an even closer strategic relationship with the United States,” she said.
Her comments came after Trump said on Sunday he was interested in the idea of a purchase, but it was not a priority for his administration.
“Strategically it’s interesting and we’d be interested, but we’ll talk to them a little bit. It’s not No. 1 on the burner, I can tell you that,” said the US president, who is expected to visit Denmark on September 2-3 as part of a trip to Europe.
Frederiksen said on Sunday that the Arctic, with resources that Russia and others could exploit for commercial gain, “is becoming increasingly important to the entire world community”.
Retreating ice could uncover potential oil and mineral resources in Greenland which, if successfully tapped, could dramatically change the island’s fortunes. However, no oil has yet been found in Greenlandic waters, and 80 percent of the island is covered by an ice sheet that is up to three kilometres thick, which means exploration is only possible in coastal regions.
Even there, conditions are far from ideal due to the long winter – with frozen ports, 24-hour darkness and temperatures regularly dropping below -30 degrees Celsius in the northern parts.
In 1946, the US proposed to pay Denmark $100m to buy Greenland after flirting with the idea of swapping land in Alaska for strategic parts of the Arctic island.
Under a 1951 deal, Denmark allowed the US to build bases and radar stations on Greenland.
The US Air Force currently maintains one base in northern Greenland, Thule Air Force Base, some 1,200km south of the North Pole. Former military airfields in Narsarsuaq, Kulusuk and Kangerlussuaq have become civilian airports.
The Thule base, constructed in 1952, was originally designed as a refuelling stop for long-range bombing missions.
It has been a ballistic missile early warning and space surveillance site since 1961.