President Donald Trump confirmed Sunday that he has asked his administration to explore the possibility of buying Greenland, opining that "essentially, it's a large real estate deal."
"A lot of things can be done," Trump told reporters in Morristown, New Jersey, after wrapping up a 10-day vacation at his private golf club. He noted that owning Greenland "would be nice" for the United States from a strategic perspective, but he cautioned: "It's not number one on the burner, I can tell you that."
Trump's desire to buy Greenland, which is part of the kingdom of Denmark, was first reported last week by the Wall Street Journal. Two people with direct knowledge of the directive told The Washington Post that the president has mentioned the idea for weeks, and that aides are waiting for more direction before they decide how seriously they should look into it.
Trump is scheduled to visit Denmark in two weeks, although he said Sunday that his visit is not related to his interest in Greenland.
"Not for this reason at all," he said.
In the days since news broke of Trump's desire to buy Greenland, the idea has been ridiculed by politicians in Denmark, and Greenland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Friday that the island is 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," the ministry said in a tweet. "We're open for business, not for sale."
Earlier Sunday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow confirmed Trump's interest in Greenland, noting that the self-governing country is a "strategic place."
"It's developing. We're looking at it," Kudlow said on Fox News Sunday. "Denmark owns Greenland. Denmark is an ally. Greenland is a strategic place. . . . I'm just saying the president, who knows a thing or two about buying real estate, wants to take a look."
Trump said Sunday that owning Greenland is "hurting Denmark very badly" and that "they carry it at a great loss," although he did not immediately provide evidence to back up those claims.
Although many in the United States have mocked the idea, one Democratic lawmaker on Sunday voiced openness to considering it. Sen. Joe Manchin III, W.Va., said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that "changes are happening" in Greenland as a result of climate change, "and the people up there understand it and they're trying to adjust to it."
"We have a very strategic base up there, a military base, which we visited," Manchin said, referring to his visit to Greenland earlier this year as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation. "And I understand the strategy for that in that part of the world and the Arctic opening up the way it is now."
He called Trump's idea "a very interesting proposal" and said the Senate Armed Services Committee, on which Manchin sits, should be receiving a secure briefing about it in the near future if the plan "has any merit to it."
Trump is not the first US president to propose buying Greenland. Kudlow noted Sunday that after World War II, President Harry S. Truman's administration offered to purchase the country from Denmark for US$100 million. The US military had a presence in Greenland during the war as a means to protect the continent if Germany tried to attack.
With melting ice making the region more accessible, the United States has been firm in trying to counter any moves by Russia and China in the Arctic. China declared itself a "near-Arctic nation" last year and has defended its desire for a "Polar Silk Road" in which Chinese goods would be delivered by sea from Asia to Europe.
China recently sought to bankroll the construction of three airports in Greenland, drawing concern from then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and prompting the Pentagon to make the case to Denmark that it should fund the facilities itself rather than rely on Beijing.