The Wall Street Journal, citing two unnamed advisers, reported late Thursday that Trump has, “with varying degrees of seriousness, repeatedly expressed interest” in buying the island in the North Atlantic.
According to the article, the idea first came to Trump last spring when an associate suggested during a dinner that he should consider buying Greenland given that Denmark was having financial trouble over the island.
Trump has since been asking his White House counsel to look into the idea, the report said.
Greenland is the world’s largest island but has a population of only about 56,000. It enjoys self-governance in some areas, including judicial affairs, utilization of natural resources, and policing, as an autonomous constituent country within the Kingdom of Denmark. But its foreign and security interests remain in the hands of the Danish government—as stipulated by the Danish Constitution.
Greenland is known for its abundant resources and geopolitical importance. The shortest route from North America to Europe goes through the Arctic island.
The U.S. military currently has an airbase, Thule Air Base, located in the northwestern part of Greenland, which has been under U.S. operation since World War II. It is home to the 821st Air Base Group, a unit of the 21st Space Wing. That unit, which is part of the U.S. Air Force, is tasked with giving early missile warnings and detecting any objects orbiting the earth to prevent them from colliding with satellites.
The military base is also being used by the U.S. Air Force Space Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
This isn’t the first time that the United States has expressed interest in purchasing the large, strategically positioned island. The U.S. State Department made an offer to Denmark to buy Greenland and Iceland in 1867, followed by President Harry Truman in 1946. Both times, Denmark turned the United States down.
China has also been eyeing Greenland’s close proximity to the Arctic shipping lanes and its rich mineral resources, including uranium and rare earths.
According to a January 2018 editorial by state-run media Xinhua, China currently considers Greenland a strategic part of its Arctic ambition and its “Polar Silk Road”—an extension of its One Belt, One Road initiative.
But in 2018, Greenland picked Denmark over Beijing to finance its airport projects. Before the decision, diplomatic tensions had arisen after Greenland’s Prime Minister traveled to Beijing to discuss financing from China’s state-owned banks.
Frank Fang and Reuters contributed to this report.