A new frontier in int’l rivalries

Published August 21, 2019, 12:01 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

E CARTOON AUG 21, 2019Seemingly out of the blue, United States President Donald Trump told his aides to look into purchasing Greenland, in a report published in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal   last Friday, August 16. Greenland, the world’s biggest island and part of the Kingdom of Norway,  is located way north of the US  close to the North Pole.

The report was met with mockery from various sectors. Greenland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs  tweeted: “Greenland is rich in valuable resources such as minerals, the purest  water and  ice, fish stocks, seafood, renewable energy, and is a new frontier for adventure  tourism. We’re open  for business,  but not for sale.”

Greenland is geographically so remote from the Philippines, which is close to the equator. But climate change is changing the face of the earth in a way  that  is  making  remote  ice-bound areas like Greenland increasingly attractive for human habitation and development.

Last Sunday, Greenland’s close neighbor  Iceland  officially marked the passing of its first glacier, the OKJokull, with the unveiling of a plaque, described as “the first monument  to a glacier lost to climate change anywhere in the world.” The  plaque  reads:  “In the next 200 years, all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path.”

Because of its location in the remote north, Greenland,  with  an  area  about  one-fourth  that of the US, has only 57,000 people. But with climate change, it is becoming increasingly attractive to many nations. China began sending scientific missions  in  2004  and,  in partnership with  an Australian company, now has  mining rights for rare earths.

Russia too has become more active in the polar region.  In a speech last May in Finland, US Secretary  of State  Mike  Pompeo  slammed Russia and China for “aggressive  behavior” in  the Arctic.  The US Air Force maintains  its  northernmost  base in Thule, Greenland. It was set up in 1943 as the first line of monitoring  against  potential Russian attack. To this day, it maintains an early warning  radar system that helps protect North America.

On top of this security angle, the melting of  the polar ice is opening up new economic opportunities, according to an official of the Heritage Foundation. He expressed concern over the increasing investments  being  made  by China in Greenland.

All these may help explain President Trump’s sudden interest in Greenland. It is becoming a new frontier in  international  rivalries that have long been playing out in our part of the world. The Philippines, with its  location  as a prime opening to Asia via the Pacific, has long been in the center of these rivalries. With  the  increasingly  critical element of climate change,  Greenland has now become a new center of international  attention.