The Trump administration is planning to open a U.S. Consulate in Greenland for the first time in decades after exchanges on Friday, Aug. 23, between the president and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.
Conversations ended well after a back-and-forth between the two leaders this week over President Trump’s suggestion to buy Greenland and the Danish government’s refusal.
On Friday, President Trump said he had spoken with Frederiksen who he called “a wonderful woman.”
“We had a great conversation,” he told reporters before leaving the White House for the Group of Seven summit in France. “We have a very good relationship with Denmark. …Very nice. She put a call in and I appreciated it very much.”
The State Department said in a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the consulate would be “a critical component of our efforts to increase U.S. presence in the Arctic and would serve as an effective platform to advance U.S interests in Greenland.”
The United States established a consulate in Greenland in 1940 after the Nazi occupation of Denmark but closed it in 1953.
The State Department has assigned a Greenlandic affairs officer and planned to hire locally employed staff in Greenland by fall. It expects a staff of seven at the consulate in 2020.
The world’s largest island, which sits between the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, possesses a geographically important position and potential treasure trove of natural gas and rare earth minerals, attracting numerous countries showing interest, such as China, Russia, and Canada.
As part of its program dubbed Polar Silk Road in the Arctic, China has a large infrastructure project in Greenland: the Kuannersuit/Kvanefjeld rare earth elements (REE) mining project in Narsaq, and a bid by Chinese construction giant China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) to construct and expand three new Greenlandic airports according to the Danish Institute for international studies.
The participation of CCCC, a company owned by the Chinese regime once blacklisted by the World Bank, was objected to by Denmark which has final say on national security issues involving Greenland.
The decision set up intense negotiations between the two sides but officials across Europe keep raising alarms over whether Chinese economic influence on the continent is becoming a national security problem.
In June, China withdrew the bid for the airport construction but remained in the REE project.
During the height of the economic crisis in Europe, Chinese companies swooped in and picked up businesses and infrastructure at below-market prices. After getting a foothold, China has begun investing in everything from mines to scientific expeditions and has used its economic leverage to drive public policy, Magnus Nordenman, a regional analyst with the Atlantic Council told Defense News.
China “scooped up a bunch of stuff for cheap, and later, when there was time for votes in the U.N. about human rights, all of a sudden these countries started backing off,” Nordenman said.
In 2016, a Chinese company attempted to buy a former U.S. military base but the Denmark government vetoed the deal as a favor to its longtime American ally.
The consulate in Greenland will be a permanent diplomatic presence that allows the United States to “protect essential equities in Greenland while developing deeper relationships with Greenlandic officials and society.”
Includes reporting from the Associated Press