Denmark, U.S. affirm need to ‘maintain and build situational awareness’ in the Arctic

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod (R) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) at their joint press conference in Copenhagen, Denmark on July 22, 2020. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Denmark’s Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod wrapped up their meeting on Wednesday, with both countries reaffirming their commitment to Arctic cooperation and coordination.

“As two of only five Arctic coastal states, the Arctic is a key interest to the Kingdom of Denmark and to the United States,” Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said in his opening statement, posted on the U.S. Department of State website. 

He also welcomed the reopening of the U.S. consulate in Nuuk, Greenland, an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, on June 10.

“Today, we reaffirmed our commitment to cooperate and coordinate closely in the Arctic in full respect of the unique constitutional construction of the kingdom,” Kofod said.  “I’m glad to see the U.S. commitments to increased economic engagement being implemented with the reopening of the U.S. consulate in Nuuk and also project funds.”

“A new day for the United States and Greenland.”

Pompeo said that the consulate reopening marked a new chapter in the Greenland – U.S. relationship.

“It’s a new day for the United States and Greenland,” Pompeo said.

“Reopening the U.S. consulate in Nuuk reinvigorates an American presence that was dormant for far too long.  And the United States has also signed new memorandums of understanding to cooperate with our partners in the Kingdom of Denmark that cover a wide range of areas, like growing Greenland’s mining and energy sectors through transparent investment, helping manage land and fisheries, increasing tourism, and much, much more.  And we’ll keep working to ensure that our Greenlandic neighbors benefit fully from the presence of Thule Air Force Base, an issue that matters an awful lot to all of us.”

“We hope to continue our constructive dialogue on how to ensure that the US military presence in Greenland benefits our country and Greenlandic society in the best possible way,” said Greenland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Energy, Steen Lynge, in a statement on Wednesday. Lynge is pictured here at a press conference on July 21, 2020 in Copenhagen. (Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)

In a statement on the Government of Greenland’s website, Foreign Minister Steen Lynge said the closer relationship would be good for the territory’s economy. 

“The new cooperation on civilian projects, with a geographical neighbor and friend, will be able to contribute positively to Greenland’s economic and educational development,” Lynge said.

Russia & China in the Arctic

Kofod invited Lynge and the Faroe Islands’ national board member for foreign affairs, Jenis av Rana, to participate in discussions on the Arctic. (The Faroe Islands is another autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark.)

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod and Greenlandic Foreign Minister Steen Lynge look on as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (C) greets the Faroe Islands’ national governor for culture and foreign affairs, Jenis av Rana at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Eigtveds Pakhus) on July 22, 2020 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The United States and the Faroe Islands agreed to start a formal dialogue to talk about key issues like healthy fisheries and enhanced commercial engagement, Kofod said on Wednesday. (Niels Christian Vilmann/ Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)

Besides pledging to continue cooperation on the Arctic Council, the international forum made up of Arctic nations and Arctic Indigenous groups, which works on sustainable development and environmental protection in the North, the foreign ministers discussed Russia and China’s activity in the Arctic. 

“We are keenly aware of the increased global attention and military presence in the Arctic by Russia,” Kofod said.  “We will continue to maintain and build situational awareness in the Arctic.”

At a press conference afterwards, Pompeo also raised concern about China’s activities in the North.

“Even in the Arctic, China has fancied themselves as a near-Arctic nation,” Pompeo said.  “We have a responsibility to get that right for each of our own sovereign security issues, but, more broadly, for our collective security across the Atlantic as well.”

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North

Canada: Canada’s long-term neglect of Arctic must stop says Senate report, Eye on the Arctic

Denmark: COVID-19 could delay Kingdom of Denmark’s Arctic strategy, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Finland joins other Nordic countries in virtual tourism due to pandemic, Yle News

Iceland: Nordics should aim for common approach to China’s Arctic involvement says report, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norway strengthens its Arctic military in new defense plan as security concerns grow in the region, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Two Chinese rigs prepare for drilling in Russian Arctic waters, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden’s FM calls for more EU involvement in Arctic as country hosts EU Arctic Forum, Radio Sweden

United States: Trump advances new icebreaker plan, Alaska Public Media 

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying an culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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