September 28, 2021

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Johannes Langkilde of DR-TV

25 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Copenhagen, Denmark

Marriott Hotel

QUESTION:  First of all, thank you so much for your time.  I hope that you’re enjoying Denmark.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I am, very much.  It’s great to be here.

QUESTION:  Last year I had the privilege of interviewing Secretary Pompeo when he was in town, and you probably remember the fuss it created, because the president floated the idea prior to his visit that the U.S. should buy Greenland.  So I asked Mr. Pompeo whether he was in the market for an Arctic island, and I’m going to ask you the same thing, Mr. Secretary:  Does the U.S. still want to buy Greenland?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I’m focused on looking forward, and the short answer is no.  Here’s what we are focused on:  We have a remarkable partnership with the Kingdom of Denmark, and as part of that, our relationship with Greenland is growing and deepening.  And it’s in that spirit that we are trying to strengthen the partnership.  I think there are tremendous opportunities in terms of increasing trade and investment, working on science, on technology, on education, on tourism.  All of that is in the mix and that’s what we’re focused on.

QUESTION:  Mr. Pompeo was very clear about not wanting China to get a strong foothold in Greenland.  Are your ambitions to be Denmark’s only partner, or would you welcome many others?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So look, when it comes to China, I think it’s important to have a few things in mind.  First, it’s an incredibly complex relationship for us but for many other countries as well, including Denmark.  And some aspects are cooperative, some are competitive, and some are adversarial.  Our purpose, our intent is not to try to contain China or to hold China back.  It is to uphold the rules-based order that Denmark and the United States have invested in over many years, and to make sure that China is playing by the rules and meeting the commitments it’s made.  So that’s what we’re focused on.  There’s room around the world for everyone, provided that everyone is playing by the same set of rules.

There are certain areas that are particularly sensitive when it comes to investment.  Denmark has just passed important investment screening legislation, and that’s significant because we do want to make sure that we protect our most sensitive industries and technologies and we avoid the theft of intellectual property.

QUESTION:  So China having interests in Greenland is okay as long as they play by the rules?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  There’s no per se prohibition against China or anyone else.  But play by the rules and make sure that the most sensitive industries or technologies are protected.

QUESTION:  I’d like to turn to the escalating violence in the Middle East.  You’ve been very clear in your condemnation of Hamas and their violation of international law, but at the same time, Israel for years has been expanding their settlements in the occupied territories, which is also against international law.  The U.S. is Israel’s strongest ally.  Why don’t you put more pressure on Israel?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I can tell you what we believe and what President Biden believes, and that is that the best and ultimately only way forward, really, is through two states.  And that means that, first, Israel as a Jewish and democratic state is going to have truly lasting security through two states, and the Palestinians would get the state that they’re entitled to.  That also means that any steps that anyone takes – unilateral steps that anyone takes – that make the prospect of two states even more challenging than it already is, we oppose, and we’ve also been very clear about that.

In the immediate, what we really need to see is for the violence to cease, calm to take hold, and to use that, I hope, as an opportunity to build something more positive.  And that requires, among other things, building more hope and building more opportunity for Palestinians who need both.

QUESTION:  But would you be ready to put more pressure on Israel?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  What we’re focused on – and we’re doing this across the board, starting with President Biden – is very intensive diplomacy, again, to de-escalate, to return to calm, and then to go from there.

QUESTION:  Critics would say that the Biden administration has had its focus elsewhere and may be not prioritizing Israel/Palestine enough.  Do you think you’ve done enough also in the time that President Biden has been in office?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I think we’ve been in office for, what, about four months now, and a tremendous amount of work to just get going and moving, which we’ve done.  If you look at what was done just in the first weeks of this administration in terms of returning to the Paris Climate Agreement, re-engaging with the World Health Organization, posing our candidacy for the Human Rights Council at the United Nations, and, of course, the work that’s profoundly in the interest of everyone, which is dealing effectively with COVID-19, not to mention the further leadership the President showed on climate.

We’ve done an awful lot.  And at the same time, it’s a big world and we do have responsibilities.  We’re trying to seize them.  I’ll tell you that in coming over to Denmark on the way to the Arctic Council, which was the purpose of this – of this trip, I probably spent most of my time on the plane coming over speaking to colleagues in the Middle East, working on the diplomacy, trying to help end the violence and move to a better place.  We have to be able to do everything at once; that’s the challenge.

QUESTION:  Let’s talk a bit about our two countries’ relations.  It’s no secret that we were a bit scared when President Trump floated the idea of not living up to NATO’s Article 5.  Can Denmark feel safe under President Biden?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  President Biden is at heart an Atlanticist, and I think for him, there is no doubt that NATO is the most successful alliance in the history of the world.  And he has said repeatedly – before he was President and as President – his absolute commitment to Article 5.  He believes in that principle and he knows that the only time Article 5 has been invoked by NATO was actually in defense of the United States after 9/11.  Our allies came to our defense, including Denmark, and in the intervening years they’ve lost lives, they’ve suffered injuries working with the United States and against terrorism.  So no, I think people can be very confident that President Biden is deeply committed to Article 5 and to the proposition that we’re all in this together.

QUESTION:  Also, even though we still don’t live up to the 2 percent GDP spending on defense?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, look, we want to see all allies continue to make progress toward the goal that was established and agreed to back at the – back in Wales at the summit there many, many years ago now.  But I have to say it’s also important and significant that Denmark is making significant investments in what we call domain awareness, situational awareness, making sure that in the North Atlantic and in the Arctic, we have the technology, the resources, the personnel to know what’s happening, who’s doing what at any given time.

QUESTION:  Are you going to put equal pressure on Denmark to live up to the 2 percent?  Or are you going to say it’s okay as long as you do other stuff?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  No, it’s not – look, it’s not a question of pressure.  We’re all in this alliance together.  We have a NATO summit coming up.  I think it’s going to be a very important one because a big part of the work is going to be to set NATO on course for the next 10 years, to make sure that we’ve got the right focus in the alliance and also the right resources in the alliance to deal with the challenges that we all have to face going forward.  And there, I think Denmark and the United States are closely joined in wanting to do that.  And yes, we want to see every partner step up and make the necessary investments, but we’ll work on that together.

QUESTION:  You’re on a tight schedule so I’ll conclude by saying we are honored by your visit.  Do you think the President will visit us at some point?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, look, when I get back and remind him of what remarkable friends we have here and how much extraordinary leadership we’re seeing from Denmark in so many areas – climate change being just one of them – but I think the world looks very much to Denmark for not only the ambition that you set when it comes to dealing with climate change, but also the way you’re doing it, making sure that as our economies transition, no one is left behind.  There’s a wonderful story here, a lot we can learn from Denmark, so I’m sure he’ll want to visit.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, I wish you a safe onward journey, and I thank you a lot.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.  Great to be with you.

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