Rival interests in the Arctic topped the agenda when the US Secretary of State visited Denmark Wednesday, a year after the countries butted heads over President Donald Trump’s offer to buy Greenland.
Following a visit to the UK where he called on the “entire world” to stand up to China, Mike Pompeo urged “free nations” to “enshrine shared values like freedom, transparency, sovereignty and sustainability in the Arctic region”.
“This mission is all the more urgent as we face new competition in the region from countries that don’t always play by those rules, if at all,” Pompeo said at a joint news conference with his Danish counterpart Jeppe Kofod.
He also criticised, as he has in the past, China designating itself a near-Arctic nation.
In 2018 China unveiled a vision for a “Polar Silk Road,” and in the same year a state-owned constructions company entered a bid to renovate airports in Greenland, an Arctic territory covering over two million square kilometres.
“I think we all have been naive,” Pompeo admitted.
“I think we’ve all been a little bit naive to watch not only the Russians but the Chinese interests there competing to become more and more aggressive.”
“We better make sure that we respond in a way that increases prosperity and security for the United States and for the people of Denmark,” he added.
Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory, eventually chose to work with Copenhagen, with media reports citing fears that Chinese investments could upset Washington as one reason for that decision.
Pompeo, after first meeting with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, held talks with Kofod, joined by foreign affairs representatives for Greenland and the Faroe Islands, both Danish autonomous territories.
In Kofod’s words, Denmark considers the US its “absolutely closest ally” and has contributed troops to NATO missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
But relations hit some turbulence in August 2019 when Trump floated the idea of the US buying the autonomous Arcic territory.