Danish PM ‘surprised’ as Trump cancels visit amid Greenland row

By Jan M Olsen, Associated Press

Denmark’s prime minister has said she is “disappointed and surprised” by Donald Trump’s decision to cancel a visit to Denmark after she called his idea of buying Greenland “an absurd discussion”.

The US president, who was scheduled to visit Denmark on September 2 and 3 as part of a European tour, tweeted his decision early on Wednesday.

The cancellation stunned Danes and blindsided the Danish royal palace, with spokeswoman Lene Balleby telling the Associated Press it came as “a surprise” to the royal household, which had formally invited Mr Trump.

“Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time,” Mr Trump said.

The vast island of Greenland sits between the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, has a population of 56,000 and has 80% of its land mass covered by a 660,000 square mile ice sheet.

The dispute over the world’s largest island is sparked by its strategic location in the Arctic, which due to global warming is becoming more accessible to possible potential oil and mineral resources.

Nations including Russia, China, the US and Canada are racing to stake as strong a claim as they can to Arctic lands, hoping they will yield future riches.

At the same time, scientists point to the effects of climate change on the semi-autonomous Danish territory and say its massive ice sheet has seen once of its biggest melts on record this summer, contributing to a global rise in sea levels.

Ms Frederiksen said she is standing behind the government of Greenland, a semi-autonomous Danish territory.

Kim Kielsen with Mette Frederiksen (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AP)

“A discussion about a potential sale of Greenland has been put forward. It has been rejected by Greenland premier Kim Kielsen and I fully stand behind that rejection,” she told reporters at a press conference in Copenhagen.

Ms Frederiksen, who took office two months ago in a minority Social Democratic government, said diplomatic relations between Copenhagen and Washington “are not in any crisis, in my opinion” after Mr Trump cancelled his visit.

“The invitation for a stronger strategic co-operation with the Americans in the Arctic is still open,” she told reporters, adding: “The United States is one of our closest allies.”

Others in Denmark were not as gracious as the prime minister.

Martin Lidegaard, a former Danish foreign minister, told broadcaster TV2 that it was “a diplomatic farce” and called Mr Trump’s behaviour “grotesque”.

The president’s cancellation was “deeply insulting to the people of Greenland and Denmark”, former prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt wrote on Twitter.

Claus Oxfeldt, chairman of Denmark’s main police union, said authorities had been planning the third visit by a sitting US president to the Scandinavian Nato member. “It has created great frustrations to have spent so much time preparing for a visit that is cancelled,” he was quoted as saying.

The US ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, was apparently not informed of Mr Trump’s decision ahead of time.

Shortly before he cancelled the trip on Twitter, she sent a tweet saying: “Denmark is ready for POTUS,” using an acronym for “President of the United States” along with Mr Trump’s Twitter handle and a photo from Copenhagen’s City Hall square, where a Dane had paid for two pro-Trump ads on giant electronic screens.

Mr Trump had said Sunday that he was interested in buying Greenland for strategic purposes, but said a purchase was not a priority for his government. Ms Frederiksen and Mr Kielsen responded that Greenland is not for sale.

“The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct,” Trump said. “I thank her for that and look forward to rescheduling sometime in the future!”