The Guardian wrote:Danish PM ‘surprised and disappointed’ over cancelled Trump visit
US president attacks comments as ‘nasty’ after calling off trip because Greenland not for sale
Wed 21 Aug 2019 17.17 BST First published on Wed 21 Aug 2019 10.44 BST
Did Trump cancel his Denmark visit because Greenland is not for sale?
The Danish prime minister has said she is surprised and disappointed that Donald Trump has called off his planned visit to the country over Copenhagen’s refusal to sell Greenland to the US.
At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Mette Frederiksen reaffirmed that Greenland was not for sale. “A discussion about a potential sale of Greenland has been put forward. It has been rejected by Greenland premier Kim Kielsen, and I fully stand behind that rejection,” she said.
She had previously said Trump’s Greenland proposal was absurd.
Trump told reporters at the White House later: “I thought the prime minister’s statement that it was an absurd idea was nasty.
“It was not a nice way of doing it. She could have just said, ‘No, we’d rather not do it.’ She’s not talking to me, she’s talking to the United States of America. They can’t say: ‘How absurd.’”
Earlier, in damage limitation mode, Frederiksen insisted that the US president’s decision would not affect strategic, military or commercial cooperation between their two countries. “The cancellation of the visit doesn’t change the good relationship between Denmark and the United States,” she said.
Politicians from across the spectrum were united in their condemnation. “There are already many good reasons to think that the man is a fool, and now he has given another good reason,” Eva Flyvholm, the foreign policy chair for Denmark’s Red-Green Alliance, told Danish media.
The former prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt tweeted:
Villy Søvndal, a former foreign minister, said the decision “confirms that Donald Trump is a narcissistic fool”.
The US president had been due to visit Denmark in early September but announced on Twitter late on Tuesday night that there was no longer any point in the visit. “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 wrote. The White House later confirmed that the visit had been called off.
Søvndal told the Danish newspaper Berlingske that Trump’s decision showed he was unaware of the basic rules of diplomacy. “If he had been a clown in a circus, you could probably say that there is considerable entertainment value. The problem is that he is the president of the most powerful nation in the world,” he said.
The awkwardness was compounded by the fact that the US ambassador to Denmark had tweeted her excitement about the upcoming visit a few hours before Trump made his announcement. “Denmark is ready for the POTUS @realDonaldTrump visit! Partner, ally, friend,” she wrote.
On Wednesday, she tried to repair the damage in a new tweet claiming Trump “values and respects” Denmark and plans a visit in the future.
“@POTUS values & respects and looks forward to a visit in the future to discuss the many important issues in our strong bilateral relationship!” she wrote. “Great friends & Allies like and should be able to discuss all issues openly & candidly.” Twitter users responded with some scepticism towards her message.
A spokeswoman for the Danish royal household, which had formally invited Trump, said Queen Margrethe II was surprised by the cancellation.
Greenland, a vast island bordering the Arctic Ocean that is 85% covered in ice, was a Danish colony until 1953. It gained autonomous territory status in 1979, but the island’s economy depends heavily on Danish subsidies. It has 55,000 inhabitants, many of whom favour full independence from Denmark.
Many in Denmark had initially assumed the story of Trump’s desire to buy the large, sparsely populated island was either meant in jest or as a distraction tactic. Trump even tweeted a photograph of a small Greenland village with a large Trump tower Photoshopped in, but he appears to have been serious about the proposal, or at least offended by the firm rebuff it received.
Danish PM reacts to cancelled Trump visit: 'preparations were in full swing'
The defence and security correspondent with Denmark’s Berlingske newspaper, Kristian Mouritzen, said the first reactions were of shock and amazement that the question of buying Greenland had been seriously raised. “In my long life I can never recall a friendly nation making a meeting dependent on a willingness to sell part of your territory. It’s like trying to buy Scotland. It’s out of the question.”
He said Trump’s move had led to a rare moment of unity among all major Danish political forces, but added that once the dust has settled, the government would look to salvage whatever was possible. “We have a lot of issues with the US: climate change, the Iran deal and now also Greenland, so I think now the government will look to play it safe and try to build some bridges via diplomatic channels.”
On Wednesday, Trump took another swipe at Denmark, this time over its defence spending. He tweeted: “For the record, Denmark is only at 1.35% of GDP for NATO spending. They are a wealthy country and should be at 2%. We protect Europe and yet, only 8 of the 28 NATO countries are at the 2% mark.”
Government officials in Greenland made it clear the island was not for sale but welcomed increased US interest. “The ridiculous idea of building a Trump tower in a village in Greenland makes us laugh. At the same time, his interest in Greenland has sparked a new debate about Greenlandic independence from Denmark,” said Poul Krarup, the editor-in-chief of Sermitsiaq, one of Greenland’s two newspapers.
The US has an airbase and a radar station in Greenland, and Krarup said there was willingness to discuss further military cooperation with the US, including more airbases or submarine monitoring stations. He said it was baffling that China had so far shown more interest than the US in partnerships with Greenland.
“It is only now under Trump that the US understands Greenland’s importance to US security policy. If Trump is prepared to spend money on development in Greenland, he is most welcome. It will help Greenland achieve more economic independence from Denmark,” said Krarup. “But we are not for sale.”
What more could late night show hosts ask for?