COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday the United States will become more active in the Arctic to counter growing Russian influence and thwart attempts by China to insert itself into the region.
During a brief visit to Denmark, Pompeo hailed the reopening of the U.S. Consulate in the semi-autonomous Danish territory of Greenland and announced a new sustainable fisheries and commercial engagement agreement with the Faroe Islands, another Danish territory in the North Atlantic.
“It’s a new day for the United States in Greenland,” Pompeo told reporters at a joint news conference with Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod.
The U.S. Consulate in Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, reopened in June after a decades-long hiatus. The move attracted attention because of U.S. President Donald Trump’s stated interest last year in purchasing Greenland from Denmark.
Kofod said the idea of the U.S. buying Greenland, which was roundly rejected and ridiculed by both Greenlandic and Danish officials, was not raised during his talks with Pompeo on Wednesday.
“That discussion was dealt with last year. It was not on the table,” he said.
Jenis av Rana, the Faroe Islands’ minister for culture and foreign affairs, told Danish media ahead of Kofod’s meeting with Pompeo that he was keen to discuss what role Washington sees the North Atlantic archipelago playing in the Arctic.
He also wondered about the possibility of a free trade agreement between the United States and the Faroe Islands, an autonomous Danish territory with some 52,000 inhabitants that is located north of Scotland between Iceland and Norway.
Av Rana told Danish broadcaster TV2 he was concerned the Arctic could become a battleground for the U.S. and other major global powers, including Russia and China.
“We’re very worried if the Arctic becomes a playground or a scene of war for the great powers,” av Rana said.
In his talks with Kofod, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and representatives of Greenland and the Faroe Islands, Pompeo said he stressed the importance of energy independence, particularly from Russia.
The Trump administration is vehemently opposed to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany. Last week, the administration warned companies involved in the project they would be subject to U.S. penalties unless they halted their work.
Denmark’s environmental agency, which had been holding up construction of the last portion of the pipeline, dropped its opposition in October, prompting the U.S. to step up its efforts to stop the project.
The 1,200-kilometer (750-mile) pipeline also is opposed by eastern European countries that say it will increase Europe’s dependence on Russia for energy.