WASHINGTON/COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - US President Donald Trump has cancelled a trip to Denmark after his attempts to buy the Arctic island of Greenland were firmly rebuffed.
Mr Trump announced the postponement on Twitter, to the bewilderment of the Danish parliament, two weeks before he was due to travel to the northern European nation.
Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen had described Mr Trump’s tentative proposal to buy Greenland – a semi-autonomous Danish territory in the Arctic – as “absurd”.
Trump, a former property developer, cited the prime minister’s “direct” comments as the reason for cancelling the trip.
“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,” he wrote on Twitter.
“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 some time in the future.”
Greenland hosts the Thule US airbase on its northwest coast, the farthest north of the US military’s global network of early ballistic missile warning centres and space surveillance.
The Arctic region is seen as one the last largely untapped areas of the world for minerals and other natural resources.
Trump had likened the potential purchase to a large property deal. “We’re very good allies with Denmark. We’ve protected Denmark like we protect large portions of the world, so the concept came up,” he said on Sunday.
The prospect of US ownership of Greenland was widely derided in Denmark, with former prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen among those mocking Mr Trump’s ambitions.
Morten Ostergaard, the leader of the Social Liberals party that forms part of the government bloc, said the US state department must have told Mr Trump that the island was not up for sale.
“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,” he wrote in a Tweet.
Denmark’s royal palace expressed surprise at the postponement of the September 2-3 visit but declined to comment further.
‘NOT FOR SALE’
Greenland, which is gaining attention from world powers including China, Russia and the United States because of its strategic location and mineral wealth, is self-governing but underdeveloped and relies on Denmark for economic support.
“Everyone should know Greenland is not for sale,” Jensen said of the world’s largest island, where the United States has a military presence at the Thule Air Base under a U.S.-Danish treaty dating to 1951.
“(Trump’s cancellation) is very, very shocking, when it is about a very close ally and a good friend,” said Soren Espersen of the hard-right Danish People’s Party.
He said Trump had effectively snubbed Queen Margrethe, Denmark’s head of state. Trump and US first lady Melania Trump were formally invited to Denmark by the queen in July.
“It shows why we now more than ever should consider (fellow) European Union countries as our closest allies. The man is unpredictable,” said Morten Ostergaard, leader of the Danish Social Liberal Party. “Reality surpasses imagination.”
Trump, whose “America First” policies have resulted in strained relations with the EU over trade and other issues, said on Sunday a U.S. purchase of Greenland would be “a large real estate deal.”
The two countries appeared to be taking steps to address tensions over the dispute.
Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said in a Twitter post that he had a “frank, friendly and constructive talk” with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and declared the countries “close friends and allies.”
The State Department said Pompeo expressed thanks for Denmark’s cooperation as an ally. “The Secretary and Foreign Minister Kofod also discussed strengthening cooperation with the Kingdom of Denmark – including Greenland – in the Arctic,” it said in a statement.
Trump said he would go to Denmark another time.
“Greenland was just an idea, just a thought. But I think when they say it was ‘absurd’ and it was said in a very nasty, very sarcastic way, I said, ‘We’ll make it some other time.’ We’ll go to Denmark - I love Denmark. I’ve been to Denmark. And, frankly, we’ll do it another time. Respect has to be shown to the United States,” he told reporters.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a former NATO secretary general and Danish premier, said Trump’s cancellation could work out for the best. “The Arctic’s security and environmental challenges are too important to be considered alongside hopeless discussions like the sale of Greenland,” he said on Twitter.