每日跟讀#673: Things to know about Greenland
US President Donald Trump earlier confirmed he was keen to buy Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory rich in natural resources and of increasing geopolitical relevance as the Arctic ice sheet melts.
Trump’s bid for Greenland was not a first for the US. In 1867, the State Department expressed interest in the island, and in 1946 former US president Harry Truman offered US$100 million in gold, or parts of Alaska, in exchange for Greenland.
But last week Denmark, a NATO ally, swiftly retorted that the island, located between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans, is not for sale, prompting Trump to cancel a planned state visit.
The name “Greenland” is misleading as the 2 million square km island, the world’s largest island that is not a continent, has three quarters bordering the Arctic Ocean and is 85 percent covered in ice. Greenland was a Danish colony until 1953, when it became part of the Danish realm. In 1979, it gained “autonomous territory” status. Today, the island’s economy depends heavily on subsidies from Copenhagen.
Greenland has been essential to US defense since World War II, when it was a base for monitoring Nazi ships and submarines passing through the Arctic on their way to the north Atlantic. In 1943, the US Air Force built its farthest-north air base at Thule, crucial during the Cold War as a first line of monitoring against a potential Russian attack.
As the polar ice sheet melts, opening up potentially major shipping routes, other global powers have moved in. Russia has become more active, and, while it has no geographical claim to the region, China has also begun to show interest in the region. China’s massive commercial shipping industry would benefit from the new polar routes.
This massive territory is also on the front line of melting Arctic ice in a region that is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, Greenland’s ocean levels are rising by about 3.3mm per year.
If Greenland’s ice sheet were to disappear completely, it would raise the ocean level by 7m.
Nonetheless, Greenland’s melting ice has a silver lining. Greenland’s subsoil is rich in gold, rubies and uranium, as well as iron, aluminium, nickel, platinum, tungsten, titanium, and copper, which could attract foreign investment.
Although Trump failed to buy Greenland, the US government is opening a consulate in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, next year; the last time the US had a consulate in Greenland was from 1940 to 1953.
Source article: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/lang/archives/2019/08/27/2003721166/2
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