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US to Open Greenland Consulate         08/24 09:05

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Trump administration is planning to open a U.S. 
consulate in Greenland for the first time in decades amid increased strategic 
and economic interest in the Danish territory.

   The State Department says in a letter to Congress that re-establishing a 
consulate in Nuuk is part of a broader plan to increase the U.S. presence in 
the arctic.

   A copy of the letter was obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

   The U.S. has a "strategic interest in enhancing political, economic, and 
commercial relationships across the Arctic region," said the letter to the 
Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

   President Donald Trump sparked a diplomatic dispute with U.S.-ally Denmark 
this week after he proposed that the U.S. buy Greenland and the Danish 
government rejected the idea.

   Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen called it an "absurd discussion." 
Trump fired back that her comments were "nasty" and he canceled a planned trip 
to Denmark.

   On Friday, though, Trump said he had spoken with Frederiksen and called her 
"a wonderful woman."

   "We had a great conversation, he told reporters before leaving the White 
House for the Group of Seven summit in France. "We have a very good 
relationship with Denmark. ... Very nice. She put a call in and I appreciated 
it very much."

   A permanent diplomatic presence would allow the U.S. to "protect essential 
equities in Greenland while developing deeper relationships with Greenlandic 
officials and society," the letter said.

   It said the consulate would be "a critical component of our efforts to 
increase U.S. presence in the Arctic and would serve as an effective platform 
to advance U.S. interests in Greenland."

   Congress would likely have been open to the idea, but after Trump's actions 
the proposal will likely gain greater scrutiny.

   The U.S. opened a consulate in Greenland in 1940 after the Nazi occupation 
of Denmark. It closed in 1953. The new one would open next year in the capital 
of the semi-autonomous territory.

   The State Department said it has already assigned a Greenlandic affairs 
officer working out of the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen. It now plans to hire 
locally-employed staff in Greenland by fall, or soon thereafter. Ultimately, it 
expects a staff of seven at the consulate in 2020.

   Experts say establishing a greater U.S. presence in Greenland is not 
unwarranted, despite the awkward roll out of Trump's idea to buy the 
semi-autonomous Danish territory.

   It is situated in a geographically important region and holds a potential 
treasure trove of natural gas and rare earth minerals. The U.S. Russia, China 
and others are showing their interests.

   In April, Russian President Vladimir Putin put forward a program to reaffirm 
his country's presence in the Arctic, including efforts to build ports and 
other infrastructure and expand its icebreaker fleet. Russia wants to stake its 
claim in the region that is believed to hold up to one-fourth of the Earth's 
undiscovered oil and gas.

   China sees Greenland as a possible source of rare earth minerals and other 
resources as well as a location for a port to ship through the Arctic to the 
eastern U.S.


(KR)

 
 
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