Danish leaders expressed shock and disbelief on Wednesday over US President Donald Trump’s cancellation of a state visit to Denmark after its prime minister rebuffed his interest in purchasing Greenland.
Trump’s proposal at first elicited incredulity and humor from politicians in Denmark, a NATO ally of the United States, with former premier Lars Lokke Rasmussen saying: “It must be an April Fool’s Day joke.”
But the mood turned to shock when Trump called off the Sept. 2-3 visit after Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called his idea of the United States buying Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory, “absurd”.
“Total chaos with @realDonaldTrump and cancellation of state visit to Denmark. It has gone from a big opportunity for strengthened dialogue between allies to a diplomatic crisis,” former foreign minister Kristian Jensen, a member of the opposition Liberal Party, said on Twitter.
“Everyone should know Greenland is not for sale,” Jensen said of the world’s largest island, which has considerable mineral wealth and a US military presence at the Thule Air Base under a US-Danish treaty dating to 1951.
Frederiksen, who had been due to hold talks with Trump in Copenhagen, planned a news conference later on Wednesday.
She said earlier this week Greenland was “not for sale” and she hoped Trump’s proposal was “not meant seriously”.
“(Trump’s cancellation) is very, very shocking, when it is about a very close ally and a good friend,” Soren Espersen, the foreign affairs spokesman for the hard right Danish People’s Party, told Danish news agency Ritzau.
He described Trump’s decision as a snub to Queen Margrethe, Denmark’s head of state. Trump and US First Lady Melania Trump were formally invited to Denmark by Queen Margrethe 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 that a US purchase of Greenland would be “a large real estate deal.”
“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 tweeted on Tuesday.
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.
Greenland, which is gaining attention from world powers including China, Russia and the United States due to its strategic location and mineral wealth, is self-governing but underdeveloped and relies on Denmark for economic support.
“I think it’s sad (Trump) is not coming, because we could have had a lot of demonstrations showing that we don’t agree with his politics, and especially his climate politics,” Hans Pedersen, a landscape architect, told Reuters in Copenhagen.
A six-meter (20-foot)-tall inflatable blimp depicting a baby version of Trump, most recently seen at a protest in London, will reappear at an anti-Trump rally to be held in Copenhagen on Sept. 2 despite the president’s no-show, organizers said.
Aaja Chemnitz Larsen, a lawmaker from Greenland’s opposition party Inuit Ataqatigiit party, said she was not surprised at the cancellation but it underlined the territory’s importance.
“The US is an interesting ally for Greenland, but we also wish for Greenland to remain in the union we have today.”