CNN – US President Donald Trump has cancelled a state visit to Denmark after the nation’s prime minister said Greenland was not for sale to the US.
The president was scheduled to visit on 2 September, at the invitation of Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II.
Then last week Mr Trump suggested the US was interested in buying Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory.
Danish PM Mette Frederiksen described the suggestion as “absurd” and said she hoped Mr Trump was not being serious.
Ms Frederiksen is due to give a statement later on Wednesday.
How did we get here?
While praising Denmark as a “very special country”, Mr Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday that his planned visit would no longer go ahead because Ms Frederiksen had “no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland”.
The cancellation was confirmed by a White House spokesman.
The Danish royal house also confirmed it had been informed of the cancellation, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, DR, reported. The house’s head of communications, Lene Balleby, said the move was “a surprise”.
Just hours before Mr Trump announced the cancellation, the US ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, tweeted: “Denmark is ready for the POTUS @realDonaldTrump visit! Partner, ally, friend.”
Mr Trump had earlier confirmed reports that he was interested in buying Greenland. When asked on Sunday if he would consider trading a US territory for the island, he replied: “Well, a lot of things could be done.”
“Essentially it’s a large real estate deal,” he said. Then, on Monday, the US president posted an image on social media showing a tall golden skyscraper among the homes of a small village on the island.
How have Greenland and Denmark reacted?
Mr Trump’s suggested purchase was dismissed by Greenlandic and Danish officials. “Greenland is not for sale, but Greenland is open for trade and co-operation with other countries, including the USA,” said the territory’s premier, Kim Kielsen.
Lars Lokke Rasmussen, the former Danish prime minister, tweeted: “It must be an April Fool’s Day joke.”
Soren Espersen, foreign affairs spokesman for the populist Danish People’s Party, told national broadcaster DR: “If he is truly contemplating this, then this is final proof that he has gone mad.”
Danish Conservative MP Rasmus Jarlov, who earlier said that “of all things that are not going to happen, this is the most unlikely”, accused Mr Trump of lacking respect for his country in a tweet on Wednesday.
As a Dane (and a conservative) it is very hard to believe. For no reason Trump assumes that (an autonomous) part of our country is for sale. Then insultingly cancels visit that everybody was preparing for.
Why would Greenland appeal to Trump?
Mr Trump has reportedly taken an interest in Greenland, in part, because of its natural resources, such as coal, zinc, copper and iron ore.
But while Greenland might be rich in minerals, it currently relies on Denmark for two thirds of its budget revenue. It has high rates of suicide, alcoholism .
Two people briefed on the discussions told the New York Times the president was also interested in Greenland’s “national security value” because of its location.
The US has long seen the island, which sits along a direct route from Europe to North America, as being strategically important. It established the Thule air force and radar base there at the start of the Cold War, which now covers space surveillance and forms the northernmost part of the US ballistic missile early warning system.
Meanwhile, new Arctic sea routes are opening up as climate change continues to accelerate the melting of ice in the region.
Mr Trump’s latest bid also comes at a time that China is taking a big interest in the area. Last year, a Chinese state-owned construction company announced plans to build new airports in Greenland – but withdrew them in June this year.
Republican Representative Mike Gallagher described Mr Trump’s idea as a “smart geopolitical move”.
“The United States has a compelling strategic interest in Greenland, and this should absolutely be on the table,” he tweeted.