Greenland trashes Trump’s offer to buy island

Updated 17 Aug 2019

Email

A BOAT navigates at night between icebergs in eastern Greenland.—AP
A BOAT navigates at night between icebergs in eastern Greenland.—AP

COPENHAGEN: Greenland on Friday dismissed the notion that it might be up for sale after reports said that US President Donald Trump had privately discussed with his advisers the idea of buying the world’s biggest island.

“We are open for business, but we’re not for sale,” Greenland’s Foreign Minister Ane Lone Bagger said.

Trump is due to visit Copenha­gen in September and the Arctic will be on the agenda during meetings with the prime ministers of Denmark and Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory.

Talk of a Greenland purchase was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. Two sources familiar with the situation said that the notion had been laughed off by some advisers as a joke but was taken more seriously by others in the White House.

Danish politicians on Friday poured scorn on the idea. “It has to be an April Fool’s joke. Totally out of season,” former prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said on Twitter.

“If he is truly contemplating this, then this is final proof, that he has gone mad,” foreign affairs spokesman for the Danish People’s Party, Soren Espersen, told broadcaster DR.

The world’s largest island is gaining attention from superpowers due to its strategic location and mineral resources

“The thought of Denmark selling 50,000 citizens to the United States is completely ridiculous,” he said.

Greenland, a self-ruling part of Denmark located between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans, is dependent on Danish economic support. It handles its own domestic affairs while Copenhagen looks after defence and foreign policy.

“I am sure a majority in Greenland believes it is better to have a relation to Denmark than the United States, in the long term,” Aaja Chemnitz Larsen, Danish MP from Greenland’s second-largest party Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA), said.

“My immediate thought is ‘No, thank you’,” she said.

Prime Minister Mette Frede­riksen and Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod were not available for comment but officials said they would respond later.

“Oh dear lord. As someone who loves Greenland, has been there nine times to every corner and loves the people, this is a complete and total catastrophe,” former US ambassador to Denmark, Rufus Gifford, said on Twitter.

Greenland is gaining attention from global superpowers including China, Russia and the United States due to its strategic location and its mineral resources.

In May, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Russia was behaving aggressively in the Arctic and China’s actions there had to be watched closely as well.

A defence treaty between Denmark and the United States dating back to 1951 gives the US military rights over the Thule Air Base in northern Greenland.

There has been no indication that a Greenland purchase will be on the agenda for Trump’s talks with Danish officials.

Martin Lidegaard, senior lawmaker of the Danish Social Liberal Party and a former foreign minister, called the idea “a grotesque proposal” which had no basis in reality.

“We are talking about real people and you can’t just sell Greenland like an old colonial power,” he said.

“But what we can take seriously is that the US stakes and interest in the Arctic is significantly on the rise and they want a much bigger influence,” he added.

In 1917 Denmark sold off the then Danish West Indies islands for $25 million to the United States, which renamed them the United States Virgin Islands.

But Greenland doesn’t quite live up to its lush name — 85 per cent of the island is covered by a three-kilometre-thick ice sheet that contains 10 per cent of the world’s fresh water. The world’s largest island 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.

This isn’t the first time the US president has expressed interest in foreign properties — he has said North Korea’s “great beaches” would make ideal locations for condos.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2019