COPENHAGEN – Greenland is not for sale, and U.S. President Donald Trump’s idea of buying the semi-autonomous Danish territory in the Arctic from Denmark is “an absurd discussion,” Denmark’s prime minister said.
Mette Frederiksen, who was visiting the world’s largest island to meet Premier Kim Kielsen, told reporters: “Greenland is not Danish. Greenland is Greenlandic. I persistently hope that this is not something that is seriously meant.”
Denmark colonized the 2-million sq. kilometer island in the 18th century. It is home to only about 57,000 people, most of whom belong to the indigenous Inuit community.
Frederiksen said 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 tapped, could dramatically change the island’s fortunes. However, no oil has yet been found in Greenlandic waters. Moreover, 80 percent of the island is covered by an ice sheet that is up to 3 km 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 minus 30 Celsius in the northern parts.
Trump, who is expected to visit Denmark Sept. 2-3 during a trip to Europe, jokingly promised Monday that he would not build one of his eponymous hotels in Greenland, the day after he confirmed his interest in buying the Danish territory.
Trump tweeted a meme depicting the golden Trump International Hotel Las Vegas towering over modest, primary-colored houses along a rocky coast on the island.
“I promise not to do this to Greenland!” he wrote.
The meme first appeared on Twitter on Thursday with the caption: “Greenland in 10 years.”
It was shared after The Wall Street Journal reported the president’s interest in buying the island.
On Sunday, Trump confirmed his interest in doing so but said it was not a priority for his administration.
“Strategically it’s interesting and we’d be interested, but we’ll talk to (Denmark) a little bit,” he told reporters, adding that he viewed it as a “large real estate deal.”
It would not be the first time an American leader has tried to buy the world’s largest island. In 1946, the U.S. proposed to pay Denmark $100 million 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 U.S. to build bases and radar stations on Greenland.
The U.S. Air Force currently maintains one base in northern Greenland, Thule Air Force Base, 1,200 km 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 refueling base for long-range bombing missions. It has been a missile early warning and space surveillance site since 1961.
Frederiksen, who became prime minister June 27, was on a two-day trip to Greenland before traveling to nearby Iceland for a meeting of the 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,” Frederiksen said.
Greenland’s ministry of foreign affairs insisted Friday the resource-rich island was ready to talk business, but was not for sale.