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Greenland to Trump: ‘Not for Sale’

General view of Upernavik in western Greenland. Picture taken July 11, 2015. (Ritzau Scanpix/Linda Kastrup via REUTERS)
Greenland to Trump: ‘Not for Sale’
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Greenland, the self-ruling territory of Denmark, told the United States Friday, “We are open for business, not for sale.”

Greenland’s foreign minister dismissed the idea of Denmark selling the territory. One day earlier, The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. President Donald Trump had spoken with his advisers about possibly buying the world’s biggest island.

The newspaper reported that Trump repeatedly expressed interest in buying Greenland. He even asked the White House counsel to explore the idea.

The report surfaced ahead of Trump's planned visit to Denmark in September. He is set to meet with the prime ministers of Denmark and Greenland. The Journal said that the planned visit is unrelated to the idea of buying Greenland.


Some Danish politicians have laughed at the idea.

“It has to be an April Fool’s joke,” wrote former prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen. His comments appeared on Twitter.

Another politician, Soren Espersen, told Danish broadcaster DR, “If he is truly contemplating this, then this is final proof, that he has gone mad.” Espersen added, “The thought of Denmark selling 50,000 citizens to the United States is completely ridiculous.”

But in 1917, Denmark did sell a group of islands in the Caribbean to the U.S. government for $25 million. The islands are now known as the U.S. Virgin Islands.

As for Greenland, U.S. President Harry Truman offered to buy the resource-rich island in 1946 for $100 million. Denmark refused the offer. The U.S. government also had no success in trying to buy Greenland and neighboring Iceland back in 1867.

Thule Air Base, Greenland, Denmark October 31, 2018. Picture taken October 31, 2018. Ritzau Scanpix/Linda Kastrup via REUTERS
Thule Air Base, Greenland, Denmark October 31, 2018. Picture taken October 31, 2018. Ritzau Scanpix/Linda Kastrup via REUTERS

Why Greenland?

The United States and other world powers are showing increasing interest in Greenland because of its location near the Arctic Circle. Last May, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that Russia's and China’s actions in the Arctic had to be watched closely.

Eighty percent of Greenland’s 2.2 million square kilometers is covered by ice. The island is home to about 57,000 people. They live along the coast. The economy depends largely on exports of shrimp and fish and aid from the government of Denmark.

Under a 1951 defense treaty with the United States and Denmark, the U.S. military operates Thule Air Base in Greenland. The base houses a radar station that is part of a missile defense system.

Last year, Denmark decided to help build two new airports in Greenland to prevent China from investing in the island.

Martin Lidegaard is a former Danish foreign minister. He told the Reuters news agency, “what we can take seriously is that the U.S. stakes and interest in the Arctic is significantly on the rise and they want a much bigger influence.”

I'm Ashley Thompson.

Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English with additional reporting from The Wall Street Journal and Reuters. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

counsel - n. a lawyer who represents a person or a group

contemplate - v. to think about doing something

ridiculous - adj. extremely silly or unreasonable

resource - n. something (like oil or minerals) that a country has and can use to increase its wealth