Trump calls off trip to Denmark after prime minister shoots down idea of US buying Greenland

Trump likened the concept of buying Greenland to a "large real estate deal."

August 20, 2019, 9:04 PM

President Donald Trump is calling off his planned trip to Denmark after the Danish prime minister dismissed the idea of the U.S. buying Greenland as “absurd.”

“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,” President Trump wrote in a tweet Tuesday night.

The president had been expected to travel to Denmark over the Labor Day weekend, when he is also slated to travel to Poland.

While the president has openly acknowledged his interest in the possibility of somehow acquiring Greenland, which is a autonomous territory of Denmark, White House officials in recent days have downplayed the seriousness of such considerations.

PHOTO: The town of Upernavik in western Greenland, July 11, 2015.
The town of Upernavik in western Greenland, July 11, 2015.
Linda Kastrup/AP, FILE

"It's just something we talked about," Trump told reporters on Sunday and suggested he'd talk about the idea further with Denmark. "So the concept came up and I said, 'Certainly, I'd be. Strategically, it's interesting, and we'd be interested.' But we'll talk to them a little bit. It's not number one on the burner, I can tell you that."

The president had likened the concept of buying Greenland as akin to a "large real estate deal."

"Essentially, it's a large real estate deal. A lot of things can be done. It's hurting Denmark very badly, because they're losing almost $700 million a year carrying it. So they carry it at a great loss," Trump told reporters Sunday.

Trump is not the first U.S. president to express interest in Greenland. Former presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower have also eyed the island for its strategic location and rich resources.

Greenland is a self-governing territory, responsible for its own policies and foreign affairs, that is technically a part of the Kingdom of Denmark.

After initial reports that Trump had talked about the possibility of buying the territory, the Greenland Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded, saying, "We're open for business. not for sale."

A government of Greenland spokesperson reiterated that the island was not for sale when approached for comment by ABC News last week.

"We have a good cooperation with USA, and we see it as an expression of greater interest in investing in our country and the possibilities we offer," the spokesperson said. "Of course, Greenland is not for sale. Because of the unofficial nature of the news, the Government of Greenland has no further comments."

Greenland's strategic importance has increased as China has looked to expand its activity in the Arctic in recent years. While China already has research stations in Iceland and Norway, the nation is looking to expand its footprint into Greenland with a satellite ground station, renovated airport and mining operations. Those ambitions have alarmed Denmark -- as Greenland is a Danish territory -- with the Danes publicly expressed concerns with China's interest in the world's largest island.

PHOTO: US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before boarding Air Force One in Morristown, New Jersey, on August 18, 2019.
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before boarding Air Force One in Morristown, New Jersey, on August 18, 2019.
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

In his tweets Tuesday night, the president left open the possibility of rescheduling his meeting with the Danish prime minister at some point in the future.

ABC News' Guy Davies and Alexandra Svokos contributed to this report.

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