|Rare Earth minerals are the main reason both US & China want Greenland.|
Yet Trump’s interest in Greenland is just the latest indication of the island’s increasing geopolitical importance. It is even drawing the eye of China. Greenland’s growing strategic value is linked tightly to new North Atlantic shipping lanes opening up due to melting polar ice caps. Its largely ice-capped land mass is also rich in untapped natural resources.
President Donald Trump has floated the idea of buying Greenland multiple times. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has called the notion “absurd.” It has triggered a diplomatic row of sorts. Yet Trump’s interest in Greenland is just the latest indication of the island’s increasing geopolitical importance. It is even drawing the eye of China.
Greenland’s strategic value is linked tightly to new North Atlantic shipping lanes opening up due to melting polar ice caps. The new lanes have dramatically decreased maritime trade travel times, which generally includes traveling through the Panama or Suez canals to circumnavigate the world.
Greenland, which is home to nearly 58,000 people, is the largest island in the world, and 80% of its 811,000 square miles are ice-capped. The island’s residents are Danish, but they have governed by self-rule since 1979.
Greenland’s largest economic drivers are fishing and tourism, but the island has drawn rising interest due to its vast natural resources, including coal, zinc, copper, iron ore and rare-earth minerals. There have been expeditions to assess the extent of the nation’s resources, but the true quantity is unknown.
China, which is embroiled in a trade battle with the U.S., previously showed interest in developing a “Polar Silk Road” of trade through the North Atlantic shipping lanes. China proposed building new airports and mining facilities on Greenland in 2018, but eventually withdrew its bid.
|Greenland is more North American than European.|
Denmark has “publicly expressed concern about China’s interest in Greenland,” a Pentagon report warned earlier this year. “Civilian research could support a strengthened Chinese military presence in the Arctic Ocean, which could include deploying submarines to the region as a deterrent against nuclear attacks,” the report said.
Greenland is also in an advantageous location for the U.S. armed forces. The U.S. and Greenland have had an agreement since World War II to house American military assets on the island. Thule Air Base, America’s northernmost Air Force base, has operated since 1943 in Greenland and has a ballistic missile early warning system and satellite tracking system.
Trump’s administration is not the first to make an inquiry about buying the island. President Harry Truman expressed desire to acquire the island in 1946 for $100 million in gold, and earlier attempts to buy the island stretch back to 1867.
While the world’s most powerful nations are looking to get a leg up in the North Atlantic and Arctic regions, experts caution that there could be a dire impact on the area. “There are economic opportunities similar to Greenland across the Arctic,” said Heather A. Conley, senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia and the Arctic at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.
The region is home to “some of the largest iron ore and zinc mines in the world,” she said, but “there is a cost to the exploration, a cost to the environment and the people who live in the Arctic and Greenland.”
US President Donald Trump's interest in buying Greenland, the autonomous territory of Denmark, has been making headlines. For the general public, the president's bizarre idea of buying an ice-covered island seems like a joke. Many are wondering why Trump suddenly proposed buying a sovereign nation's territory.
Our guess is that Greenland is abundant in natural resources, including some of the largest deposits of rare earths. A Chinese company has already been engaged in a rare-earth mining project in Greenland by acquiring a stake in an Australian company called Greenland Minerals.
So even if Trump is joking, the fantasy has exposed his anxiety about China's dominance over production of rare-earth metals, which are broadly used in high-technology products from smartphones to electric vehicles.
Although the Trump administration has been busy seeking out and taking control of rare-earth resources globally, observers generally noted that due to the lack of rare-earth processing capacity, the US can't really diversify its source of rare-earth supplies away from China.
If anything, US pursuit of global rare-earth mines may serve as a reminder to China that it must ensure its continued dominance of the global rare-earth industry. While China possesses the most advanced rare-earth processing technology and the biggest refining and processing capacity in the world, the country still needs to upgrade its processing technologies to enhance competitiveness in the global market.
In years to come, companies in China's rare-earth industry may still purchase some mining resources around the world, but it shouldn't necessarily be their top priority. The most important step in securing China's dominance of rare earths is to maintain a leading position in technology by continuously improving and upgrading.
After years of effort and heavy costs, China has developed a clean and efficient rare-earth processing technology system. But the rare-earth industry still has some environmental problems that need to be addressed, which is one of the important aspects of technological advancement.
In the meantime, Chinese rare-earth producers should strive to set up a global network to better compete with overseas rivals. The government should give priority support to these areas, as China cannot afford to lose its dominant position in the rare-earth industry.
President Donald Trump said Wednesday he was the “chosen one” to battle China in the ongoing trade war between the two countries.
Looking up briefly in the sky as he spoke about his fight with China, Trump declared, “I am the chosen one. Somebody had to do it, so I am taking on China, I’m taking on China on trade, and you know what? We are winning.”
The president spoke to reporters as he left the White House for a trip to Kentucky to for a speech to American’s veterans. Trump continued to defend his struggle with China, telling reporters outside the White House it was up to him to do what past presidents should have done sooner.
“I was put here by people to do a great job and that’s what I’m doing,” he said. He suggested that China was probably waiting for a Democrat like “Sleepy Joe” Biden to win the presidency, rather than make a deal with his administration.
“Sleepy Joe doesn’t have a clue, Sleepy Joe said, ‘Oh, China’s wonderful,’ Well China is wonderful for China, but I’m wonderful for the USA,” he said. Trump also spoke about his efforts on Tuesday, during remarks with reporters in the Oval Office. “It’s about time, whether it’s good for this country or bad for this country short term,” he said. “Long term, it’s imperative that somebody does this.”
The president said China was experiencing one of the worst months in half a century economically under his tough trade policies and signaled optimism that they were ready to make a deal. On Tuesday, he admitted that there were some effects to the ongoing trade battle, but he would keep fighting.
“I could be sitting right now with a stock market that would be up 10,000 points higher if I didn’t want to do it,” he said and added, “You should be happy that I’m fighting this battle because somebody had to do it. I don’t think it’s sustainable with what was happening.”