US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has visited Denmark a year after a diplomatic spat between the United States and the Nordic country over President Donald Trump’s offer to buy Greenland.
Pompeo met his Danish counterpart Jeppe Kofod and the country’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, in Copenhagen on Wednesday along with foreign affairs representatives for Greenland and the Faroe Islands, also a Danish autonomous territory.
In Kofod’s words, Denmark considers the US its “absolutely closest ally” and has contributed troops to NATO missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
But relations hit some turbulence in August 2019 when Trump floated the idea of the US buying Greenland, an Arctic territory covering more than two million square kilometres (772,204 square miles).
Frederiksen called the proposal “absurd”, leading Trump to cancel a planned visit to Copenhagen over the “nasty” tone of the response.
While the offer was the subject of some ridicule, analysts say it was also indicative of the US’s renewed strategic interest in the Arctic region, which had subsided somewhat after the end of the Cold War.
A few phone calls between the countries have since eased the tensions, and Greenland officials have said they want to put the affair behind them.
“What we said in the past and what we do today are two different things. And what matters is what we do and what we say today,” Greenland foreign affairs representative Steen Lynge told reporters on Tuesday.
The US reopened a consulate in Greenland’s capital Nuuk last month, with approval from Copenhagen, and provided a $12.1m aid package in April.
Greenland is also home to another strategic US asset – the Thule Air Base, which is the US Air Force’s northernmost base.
Russia, China factor
Leading up to the visit a statement from the US Department of State highlighted the importance of a partnership in the Arctic, “particularly as we see increased activity in the region from Russia and the People’s Republic of China”.
But there is another bone of contention: The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline being built between Russia and Germany.
The US strongly opposes the pipeline, which runs through the Baltic, crossing Danish waters, saying it risks increasing the dependence of NATO countries on Russian gas.
It imposed sanctions on companies working on the project late last year – a move strongly opposed by the European Union – and has recently threatened more.
Denmark was the last country to approve the pipeline, holding up the unveiling by several months, before finally providing the green light in October 2019.
Copenhagen denied any foreign pressure over the issue, but a diplomatic source told the AFP news agency the small Nordic country has faced great difficulty in balancing the interests of its two main allies, the US and Germany.