Greenland, and more specifically its purchase by the US, is being actively discussed in Donald Trump’s Oval Office. But what exactly is it that makes one of the world’s most desolate places such an attractive proposition?
For the president, it is the real estate deal of a lifetime, one that would secure a land mass a quarter the size of the US and cement his place in US history alongside President Andrew Johnson, who bought Alaska from Russia in 1867, and Thomas Jefferson, who secured Louisiana from the French in 1803.
To Trump’s advisers, the planned multibillion-dollar takeover challenges China’s dominance of the world’s industrial metals and helps to block Russia’s renewed military ambitions.
Not that Washington has put a value on Greenland ahead of Trump’s meeting next month with Kim Kielsen, the province’s leader, and the Danish prime minister, Mette Frederiksen. These are early days in the discussion, Trump said.
Greenland is an autonomous region that effectively runs itself while Denmark, its sovereign owner, takes care of defence and foreign policy.
The three leaders were due to discuss Copenhagen’s Nato contributions, which Washington has long believed could be higher, and could be more in kind – such as extra airbases – than in cash, given Greenland’s strategic position between the US and Russia.
But Trump’s advisers have spent much of their time in the West Wing downgrading concerns about Vladimir Putin and his military ambitions in favour of plotting how to win an economic war with China.
This is why an age-old conversation with Denmark about leases for parcels of Greenland has developed into one about buying the whole place outright.
About 80% of the world's largest island is covered in ice. Inuit people first inhabited it by moving from present-day Canada 4,000-5,000 years ago. It was named by Erik the Red when he led a fleet of 25 ships from Iceland to colonise it in 985 AD.
Population: 56,000 - 90% of whom live in 16 towns.
Size: 836,000 sq miles (2.16m sq km) - roughly the same size as Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium combined.
Official language: Greenlandic - closely related to languages spoken by Inuit in Canada and Alaska.
National dish: Meat soup called suaasat which normally contains seal, whale, reindeer or seabirds.
Life expectancy: 72.9 years
Head of state: Queen Margrethe II of Denmark
Premier: Kim Kielsen
Capital city: Nuuk (population 18,000)
National anthem: Nunarput Utoqqarsuanngoravit, adopted in 1916. The first verse translates as: “Our country, which has become so old, your head is all covered with white hair. Always held us, your children, in your bosom, and gave us the riches of your coasts.”
Religion: Christianity was introduced to the island around 1000 by Erik the Red’s son Leif Eriksson.
Government: Denmark granted the island limited self-government in 1979, 26 years after it was incorporated into the country by the Danish constitution. Further powers were devolved in 2008. Economic self-sufficiency has been a stumbling block to the island gaining full independence.
EU membership: Greenland was a member of the European Union as part of Denmark from 1973 to 1985. It withdrew in 1985 after 53% of people voted to leave in a referendum called following disputes over fishing rights.
Military: There is no military force. Defence and foreign policy remain in the hands of the Danes.
Airports: 14. The first three were built in the 1940s and 50s by the US, which was handed the defence and control of Greenland while Denmark was under Nazi occupation.
Famous Greenlanders: Jesper Grønkjær, played football for Ajax, Chelsea, Atlético Madrid; Rasmus Lerdorf, co-authored the PHP programming language; Aleqa Hammond, the country’s first female prime minister.
Greenland harbours some of the largest deposits of rare-earth metals, including neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium, along with uranium and the byproducts of zinc.
US corporations once thought of China as a benign supplier of rare-earth metals for mobile phones, computers and more recently electric cars. And the US government was relaxed when Chinese companies began hoovering up mines across central and southern Africa to secure an even greater dominance of the global market.
The arrival of Xi Jinping as China’s leader, and his more aggressive foreign policy stance, has spooked many US policymakers. Among Trump’s advisers, the need for greater economic independence has raced up the agenda.
A target for the US is Greenland Minerals, an Australian company that has generated a good deal of excitement since it started operating on Greenland’s south-west peninsula in 2007 to develop the Kvanefjeld mine, which is home to many rare-earth metals.
More than 100m tonnes of ore are believed to be sitting below the surface and the project is expected to become one of the largest global producers outside China.
Trump made it clear on the tarmac as he prepared to board Air Force One, bound for the G7 summit in France, that he thought Greenland had a price, in the same way that everything and everybody has a price, and Denmark could be a willing seller.
He said: “We protect Denmark like we do large portions of the world. So the concept came up and I said, certainly. Strategically it’s interesting. It’s essentially a large real estate deal.”
The art of the deal is to spot your adversary’s weakness. Trump said Greenland was costing Denmark about $700m (£575m) a year in subsidies. While he pointed out this drain on the public finances, it was clear he saw it as a bargaining chip that could be used to persuade Danish taxpayers.
The Financial Times, in a mock assessment of Trump’s bid, put a price of $1.1tn on the combined value of Greenland’s mineral and defence assets.
Frederiksen sought to quash any discussion of a price, saying: “Greenland is not for sale. Greenland is not Danish. Greenland belongs to Greenland. I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously.”
Trump said buying Greenland was not his number one priority, but the mere fact of floating the idea shows how containing China is his obsession.