Greenland’s government responded on Friday to the news President Donald Trump had shown interest in purchasing the island, saying it’s “not for sale.”
The Wall Street Journal reported the previous day that Trump at various meetings and dinners and in passing conversations has asked advisers whether the U.S. could acquire Greenland, the world’s largest island.
Further, the president has “listened with interest when they discuss its abundant resources and geopolitical importance and, according to two of the people, has asked his White House counsel to look into the idea.”
Greenland, with a landmass of approximately 836,000 square miles, is an autonomous territory of Denmark located to the east of Canada, between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.
The island’s population is approximately 56,000, of whom about 90 percent are Inuit natives.
Greenland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted, “we’re open for business, not for sale.”
#Greenland is rich in valuable resources such as minerals, the purest water and ice, fish stocks, seafood, renewable energy and is a new frontier for adventure tourism. We’re open for business, not for sale❄️🗻🐳🦐🇬🇱 learn more about Greenland on: https://t.co/WulOi3beIC
— Greenland MFA 🇬🇱 (@GreenlandMFA) August 16, 2019
Most of Greenland’s economic ties are with Europe. Currently, there are no direct commercial flights to the island from North America.
One reason Greenland may have Trump’s interest is China’s efforts to establish a presence there as part of a wider push throughout the Arctic region.
“While China already has research stations in Iceland and Norway, the nation is looking to expand its footprint into Greenland with a satellite ground station, renovated airport and mining operations,” ABC News reported.
“Those ambitions have alarmed Denmark — as Greenland is a Danish territory — with the Danes publicly expressing concerns with China’s interest in the world’s largest island.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was slated to visit Greenland in May, but postponed the trip due to rising tensions with Iran during that time period.
“We look forward to rescheduling the Secretary’s visit at a time convenient for Greenland, Denmark, and the United States,” the State Department said in a news release at the time.
“Secretary Pompeo is pleased to announce that the United States intends, after six decades, to reestablish a permanent Department of State presence in Greenland, and we will work together with Congress and Denmark to make this happen as soon as possible.”
Copenhagen sends $591 million to Greenland annually, which makes up about 60 percent of the country’s annual budget.
Trump is scheduled to travel to Denmark in early September, but the trip is unrelated to Greenland.
The Associated Press reported the United States sought to buy the island following World War II in 1946 for $100 million in gold ($1.3 billion in today’s dollars).
Though Denmark, a NATO ally, turned the offer down, it did sign a defense treaty in 1951 allowing the U.S. to construct Thule Air Base and other facilities on the island.
The United States also looked at buying Greenland and Iceland in 1867, the same year it purchased Alaska from Russia.
Luke Coffey, a foreign policy expert with the Heritage Foundation, reported that Greenland is on a pathway to full independence from Denmark.
Greenland was granted home rule in 1979 and self-government in 2009. Copenhagen still oversees the island’s foreign and military affairs.
“For Greenland, the question is not if it will become independent, but when and how,” Coffrey writes. “Few inside Greenland’s government think it is ready now, but Denmark’s official position is that Greenland can become independent whenever it pleases.”
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