U.S. President Donald Trump Tuesday postponed a planned visit to Denmark after Danish officials insisted its autonomous territory of Greenland was not for sale.
Trump’s decision confirms just how interested he was in purchasing Greenland, an idea initially dismissed as a joke by some, but which the White House later insisted had a serious purpose because of its strategic location. “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.
During a Sunday visit to Greenland—the largest island on Earth—Frederiksen called Trump’s idea “absurd.”
“The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct,” Trump tweeted. “I thank her for that and look forward to rescheduling sometime in the future!”
The development was “a surprise,” said Lene Balleby, the head of communications for the Danish Royal House, according to public broadcaster DR.
The president’s latest Greenland comments sparked a strong reaction from both sides of the political aisle in Denmark. “Reality transcends imagination… this man is unpredictable,” said Morten Ostergaard of the Social Liberal Party, which is part of the ruling coalition. “For no reason Trump assumes that (an autonomous) part of our country is for sale. Then insultingly cancels visit that everybody was preparing for,” tweeted Rasmus Jarlov, a member of the opposition Conservative Party. “Are parts of the U.S. for sale? Alaska? Please show more respect.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported that Trump had expressed interest in the self-governing part of Denmark—which is mostly covered in ice—asking advisers if it would be possible for the U.S. to acquire the territory.
The president, a former real estate magnate, has been curious about the area’s natural resources and geopolitical relevance, the paper said. Trump confirmed his interest on Sunday, but said it was not a priority for his administration and the Denmark trip was “not for this reason at all.”
“It’s something we talked about,” he told reporters. Asked if he would consider trading a U.S. territory for Greenland, Trump replied that “a lot of things could be done.”
“Essentially, it’s a large real estate deal.”
The next day, Trump jokingly promised that he would not build one of his eponymous hotels in Greenland, tweeting a meme depicting the golden Trump International Hotel Las Vegas towering over modest, primary-colored houses along a rocky coast. “I promise not to do this to Greenland!” he wrote.
The meme first appeared on Twitter on Thursday with the caption: “Greenland in 10 years.”
Denmark colonized the 772,000 square-mile island in the 18th century. It is home to around 57,000 people, most of the indigenous Inuit community.
Greenland’s ministry of foreign affairs insisted on Friday the island was ready to talk business, but was not for sale. “#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,” it tweeted. “We’re open for business, not for sale.”