US will invest in Greenland infrastructure, says Defense Department

The statement comes after a controversial decision by Greenland to partner with Denmark rather than a Chinese contractor on a major airport expansion.

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A Royal Canadian Air Force C-17 Globemaster III and two C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the 8th Wing Canadian Forces Base out of Trenton, Canada, are parked on the ramp at Thule Air Base in a 2014 photo. (Tech. Sgt. David Buchanan / U.S. Air Force)

COPENHAGEN — The United States wants to invest in Greenland to enhance its “military operational flexibility and situational awareness,” the Department of Defense said on Monday.

Greenland is strategically important for the U.S. military and its ballistic missile early warning system, as the shortest route from Europe to North America goes via the Arctic island.

The U.S. intends to “pursue potential strategic investments vigorously, including investments that may serve dual military and civilian purposes”, the Defense Department said in a statement published by the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen.

Greenland picked Denmark as its partner in a planned upgrade of two airports last week, seeking to defuse a diplomatic row over how the projects, of strategic interest to both Washington and Beijing, should be financed.

[The controversy over Greenland airports shows China isn’t fully welcome in the Arctic — yet]

Greenland is a self-ruling part of the Kingdom of Denmark and while its government decides on most domestic matters, foreign and security policy is handled by Copenhagen.

Denmark has been concerned that a Chinese investment — on the agenda since Greenland‘s Prime Minister Kim Kielsen visited Beijing last year — could upset its close ally the U.S.

The Defense Department said in Monday’s statement that it intends to analyze and, where appropriate, strategically invest in projects related to the airport infrastructure in Greenland.

The one-page “Statement of Intent” did not go into financial details.

“We welcome the American Statement of Intent, and look forward to discuss details of possible U.S. airport investments in Greenland,” Greenland‘s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vivian Motzfeldt, said in a statement.

Greenland‘s government lost its parliamentary majority as a row between coalition partners escalated last week over how the planned airport projects should be financed.

Reporting by Teis Jensen.