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Danish politicians responded to reports that Donald Trump was interested in buying the island of Greenland with a clear message Friday: Are you nuts?
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Trump has repeatedly expressed interest in the United States buying the world’s largest island, a resource-rich, self-ruling territory of the Kingdom of Denmark. The Journal reported that while Trump had made the inquiries with “varying degrees of seriousness,” he had asked White House counsel to look into the idea, and some of his advisers had said it made economic sense.
But in Denmark, which has never signaled any intention of selling the Arctic island, population 56,000, the notion was met with scorn and ridicule.
Greenland’s Foreign Minister Ane Lone Bagger said Friday that the sale of the island wasn’t up for discussion.
“We are open for business, but we’re not for sale,” she said.
Aaja Chemnitz Larsen, an MP from Greenland’s Inuit Ataqatigiit party, also thought the idea was a non-starter. “My immediate thought is ‘No, thank you’,” she told Reuters.
Soren Espersen, foreign affairs spokesman for the populist Danish People’s Party, was scathing of the suggestion.
“If he is truly contemplating this, then this is final proof that he has gone mad,” he told public service broadcaster DR.
“The thought of Denmark selling 50,000 citizens to the United States is completely ridiculous.”
The ice-covered 811,000-square mile island is a self-ruling part of the Kingdom of Denmark, with its government legislating on domestic affairs, while foreign policy and security matters are handled by Copenhagen.
While Greenland relies on nearly $600 million of Danish economic support annually, the island is rich in natural resources like iron ore, zinc, and oil, which are becoming more accessible as climate change melts Arctic ice. It also occupies a geopolitically strategic location between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. Under the terms of a defense treaty with Denmark, Washington operates a major airbase in northern Greenland, which forms a critical part of the U.S. ballistic missile early-warning system.
As far-fetched as Trump’s alleged ambitions towards Greenland might sound, they’re not without precedent. Back in 1946, U.S. President Harry Truman made an offer to Denmark of $100 million for Greenland, but was knocked back. And In 1917, the U.S. bought the Danish West Indies — now known as the U.S. Virgin Islands — for $25 million, to counter the threat of them being seized and used as a submarine base by Germany.
The Danish government is yet to officially respond to the reports of Trump’s interest. But if they want to talk turkey with the self-described “great deal-maker,” Denmark’s leaders will have ample opportunity to next month when the U.S. president makes his first official visit to the kingdom. The sale of Greenland is not on the agenda for the visit.
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)