US President Donald Trump greets supports in Cincinnati, Ohio. the US, August 1 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
US President Donald Trump greets supports in Cincinnati, Ohio. the US, August 1 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

Copenhagen — US President Donald Trump indicated before a planned trip to Copenhagen that he wanted to buy Greenland, which is part of Denmark. The government in the Danish capital told him the world’s biggest island is not for sale, and the state visit is now in doubt.

Trump has been invited by Queen Margrethe of Denmark for a state visit due to take place on September 2-3. The office of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has confirmed the planned trip, and says the necessary preparations for an official presidential visit are being put in place.

But over the weekend, Trump told reporters that it is not certain he will  be making the trip. Asked about those comments during a visit to Greenland’s capital Nuuk on Monday, Frederiksen said her government would “intensify” planning for Trump’s arrival in the “coming weeks”. She also said she wants closer cooperation between Denmark and Greenland, including on defence and foreign affairs.

An affront

The confusion prompted one prominent opposition member of the Danish parliament to refer to Trump’s non-committal attitude as an affront to Denmark’s Queen.

The uncertainty surrounding Trump’s first state visit to Denmark — a founding Nato member and a US ally during the Iraq war — comes amid dismay in Greenland and Copenhagen after Trump expressed his apparent interest in purchasing the world’s largest island. Trump told reporters that buying Greenland would be “a large real estate deal” that could ease a financial burden on Denmark.

Speaking in Nuuk on Sunday, Frederiksen said that “of course” the island is “not for sale. And I can’t sell Greenland. Greenland is not Danish. Greenland is Greenlandic,” she told Danish broadcasters.

But from the US perspective, Trump said that “strategically it’s interesting and we’d be interested, but we’ll talk to them a little bit”, in comments made on Sunday as he left New Jersey for Washington after spending more than a week at his golf course. He also said a deal is “not No 1 on the burner”.

Trump said that Denmark loses almost $700m  a year on Greenland, which has a population of about 56,000. “It’s hurting Denmark very badly,” he said.

The Danish state pays an annual subsidy of about $500m  to Greenland, which has a gross domestic product of roughly $2.7bn.

“Essentially it’s a large real estate deal,” Trump said. “A lot of things can be done.”

Denmark has been adamant in its rejection of a sale since reports emerged last week that Trump had directed advisers and lawyers to review a possible deal.

“I keep trying to hope that this isn’t something that was seriously meant,” Frederiksen was quoted by local newspaper Sermitsiaq as saying.

Larry Kudlow, head of the US national economic council, said earlier on Sunday that Greenland is a “strategic place” rich in valuable minerals and that discussions are continuing. “The president, who knows a thing or two about buying real estate, wants to take a look at a potential Greenland purchase,” Kudlow said.