Trump cancels visit to Denmark after PM rejects sale of Greenland

US president was scheduled to hold talks with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

General view of Upernavik in western Greenland
Greenlandic conditions include frozen ports, 24-hour darkness and temperatures regularly dropping below -30 degrees Celsius in the north [File: Ritzau Scanpix/Linda Kastrup via Reuters]

President Donald Trump has announced that his upcoming trip to Denmark is on hold because its prime minister is not interested in selling Greenland to the United States.

Trump posted on social media on Tuesday that “based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time”.

“Denmark is a very special country with incredible people,” he added.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said Trump’s visit to Denmark, scheduled for September 2-3, had been cancelled.

Trump recently floated the idea of buying the island, which is owned by Denmark but has its own government.

In response, Greenland’s premier ruled out such a move and Denmark called the idea “absurd”.

“Greenland is not Danish. Greenland is Greenlandic,” Frederiksen, the Danish prime minister, 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.”

Following the cancellation of Trump’s trip, Frederiksen told reporters on Wednesday she rejected Trump’s idea and supported Greenland’s Kim Kielsen.

“This does not change the character of our good relations and we will of course continue our ongoing dialogue with the US on how we can develop our cooperation and deal with the many common challenges we are facing,” Frederiksen said at a press conference.

Other Danish politicians ridiculed Trump and called for more respect from the real estate mogul. 

“Reality transcends imagination … this man is unpredictable,” said Morten Ostergaard of the Social Liberal Party, which is part of the ruling coalition.

“For no reason, Trump assumes that (an autonomous) part of our country is for sale. Then insultingly cancels visit that everybody was preparing for,” tweeted Rasmus Jarlov, a member of the opposition Conservative Party.

“Are parts of the US for sale? Alaska? Please show more respect.”

Trump was scheduled to depart at the end of August on a trip that included stops in Denmark and Poland.

Earlier, the US president also ridiculed Greenland, posting on social media a doctored image of the island with a Trump tower.

Increased strategic importance

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.

“It’s not the first time we’ve seen the president take sort of the real estate developer’s approach to diplomacy,” Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Hackett said.

“It’s part of the US ballistic missile early warning system, and it’s also used by US airforce space command and the North American Aerospace defence command,” she added.

“It has the look of absurdity, but there may well be some strategy behind it.”

The US Air Force currently maintains one base in northern Greenland, Thule Air 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.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies