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GREENLAND

How Pompeo’s visit signalled ‘radical’ change in Denmark’s position on China

Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Jeppe Kofod made a clear effort to place Denmark as a close ally of the United States after meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday.

How Pompeo’s visit signalled 'radical' change in Denmark’s position on China
Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod (L) greets US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Copenhagen. Photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix

Interests in the Arctic region, notably in relation to China, topped the agenda when Pompeo visited Denmark on Wednesday.

“I am pleased to see the United States' increased financial obligations [in Greenland, ed.] in the form of the reopening of the US Consulate in Nuuk and funds for projects,” Kofod said at a briefing following the meeting.

But the Danish foreign minister’s comments were particularly notable in relation to China, according to an analyst.

Stressing the close alliance between Denmark and the United States, Kofod said the two countries “are rulemakers, not rulebreakers”.

That may reflect a more critical position closely aligned with US interests.

“The government has, in recent months, moved towards a radical change to Denmark’s China policies, which has up to now focused mostly on economy and less on human rights,” Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen, a professor at the University of Copenhagen’s Faculty of Social Sciences, told Ritzau.

Kofod’s comments at a briefing following the meeting with Pompeo signalled that change in ideology, according to the professor.

“The foreign minister was very offensive in expressing shared values with the Americans. He said that both countries are ‘rulemakers’. I’ve not heard that used in that way before,” Rasmussen said.

 

“It sounds like an adoption of the American notion that Western ideas will continue to dominate internationally,” he explained.

This means that “other countries like China are not to show up and push their ideals on to the WHO and other international organisations,” the professor said.

In Copenhagen following a visit to the UK where he called on the “entire world” to stand up to China, 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 the joint news conference with 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'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,” Pompeo said.

“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.

Kofod US has previously called the US Denmark’s “absolutely closest ally”. The Scandinavian country has contributed troops to Nato missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Relations between the two hit some turbulence in August 2019 when Trump floated the idea of the US buying the autonomous Arctic territory. When Frederiksen dismissed the proposal as “absurd”, Trump reacted by cancelling a planned visit to Copenhagen.

Kofod, in his comments, closed down any speculation that the proposal could return to the agenda.

“That discussion was dealt with last year, it was not on the table in our discussion,” he told reporters.

Only two media organisations – Fox News and Denmark’s TV2 – were permitted to ask questions at Wednesday’s briefing.

READ ALSO: Pompeo visits Denmark one year on from Greenland farce

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ENVIRONMENT

Greenland passes law banning uranium mining

Greenland's parliament voted Tuesday to ban uranium mining and exploration in the vast Danish territory, following through on a campaign promise from the ruling left-wing party which was elected earlier this year.

Greenland's parliament voted on November 9th to ban uranium mining. Prime Minister Mute Egede, pictured, said earlier this month he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement.
Greenland's parliament voted on November 9th to ban uranium mining. Prime Minister Mute Egede, pictured, said earlier this month he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement. File photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party won snap elections in April that were originally triggered by divisions over a controversial uranium and rare earth mining project.

The IA won 12 seats in the 31-seat Greenlandic national assembly, beating its rival Siumut, a social democratic party that had dominated politics in the island territory since it gained autonomy in 1979.

On Tuesday 12 MPs in the national assembly voted to ban uranium mining, with nine voting against. 

The IA had campaigned against exploiting the Kuannersuit deposit, which is located in fjords in the island’s south and is considered one of the world’s richest in uranium and rare earth minerals.

The project, led by the Chinese-owned Australian group Greenland Minerals, has not yet been officially abandoned.

But French group Orano announced in May it would not launch exploration despite holding permits to do so.

The massive natural riches of the vast island — measuring two million square kilometres, making it larger than Mexico — have been eyed by many, but few projects have been approved.

The island is currently home to two mines: one for anorthosite, whose deposits contain titanium, and one for rubies and pink sapphires.

While Greenland’s local government is not opposed to all mining activities, it has also banned all oil exploration over concerns for the climate and the environment.

Earlier this month Prime Minister Mute Egede said he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement, which Greenland is one of the few countries not to have ratified.

READ ALSO: Greenland seabed scoured for marine diamonds

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