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Trump snubs Danish queen as state visit canceled over Greenland purchase

Aug 21 2019 10:57
Morten Buttler and Nick Rigillo

President Donald Trump canceled a state visit to Denmark after his offer to buy Greenland was met first with bemusement, then flat refusal. Anger followed, and even Queen Margrethe II was drawn into the fray.

Trump had been due to make his first visit to Denmark, a founding member of NATO and a US ally in the Iraq war, on September 2-3. A series of reports last week indicated he wanted to purchase Greenland, the world’s biggest island and site of a strategic American base. The island is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, though it has extensive home rule.

A leading member of the Danish government bloc on Wednesday morning called Trump’s behavior “hopeless,” while a former prime minister said the decision was “deeply insulting” to the people of Denmark and asked whether the whole exercise had been a joke. The queen weighed in, noting through a spokeswoman that the US president’s decision to snub her invitation in a tweet came as a surprise.

Formal US discussions with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen were to focus on the strategic importance of Greenland. It’s where the US has its northernmost base, Thule, and the island’s location close to the natural resources in the Arctic has made it attractive to both Russia and China.

The cancellation of the trip marks a “diplomatic crisis,” according to Kristian Jensen, a leading member of the opposition and a former finance minister. He hinted at the damage done to the post-World War II relationship with Denmark, which was among a handful of countries to follow the US into the Iraq war.

Frederiksen, the prime minister, had called the idea of buying Greenland “absurd” and said she hoped it was a joke. She made clear the island wasn’t for sale and that Denmark doesn’t have the authority to sell it in any case. Trump saved his response for Twitter.

‘Special Country’

“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,” Trump said in a Twitter post on Tuesday night.

Morten Ostergaard, the leader of the Social Liberals who form part of the government bloc, tweeted that “reality has surpassed fantasy. It cannot be that no one in the US state department told Trump in advance” that buying Greenland isn’t an option. “This is pretty hopeless. And it shows why we more than ever need to regard the EU members as our closest allies. You cannot count on this man.”

Martin Lidegaard, a member of the government bloc and a former foreign minister, called the affair a “diplomatic farce.”

Trump wrote that “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. I thank her for that and look forward to rescheduling sometime in the future!”

Hours before the trip was called off, Carla Sands, the US ambassador to Denmark, tweeted that the Scandinavian country was “ready for the POTUS @realDonaldTrump visit! Partner, ally, friend.”

Earlier this week, the president told reporters that buying Greenland would be “a large real estate deal” that could ease a financial burden on Denmark.

Frederiksen had ruled out any sale. Danish officials have been adamant that the island isn’t on offer since reports last week that Trump had directed advisers and lawyers to review a possible deal.

“Greenland isn’t for sale, Greenland isn’t Danish, Greenland is Greenlandic,” Frederisken said Sunday during a visit to Greenland, according to the local newspaper Sermitsiaq. “I keep trying to hope that this isn’t something that was seriously meant.”

Larry Kudlow, head of the National Economic Council, had said Sunday that Greenland is a “strategic place,” rich in valuable minerals, and that discussions are continuing.

However serious White House discussions of a sale might have been, the topic prompted jokes on both sides of the Atlantic since Trump’s interest was first reported. He got into the act Monday night with a tweet showing an image of a golden Trump tower on an austere Greenland landscape. “I promise not to do this to Greenland,” Trump wrote.

-With assistance from John Harney.

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