Greenland is courting Chinese investors and construction firms to help expand three airports, causing concerns in the Danish government that Chinese involvement in the Arctic island could upset its close ally, the United States.
Chinese interest in Greenland, a self-ruling part of the Kingdom of Denmark, comes after Beijing in January laid out ambitions to form a "Polar Silk Road" by developing shipping lanes opened up by global warming and encouraging enterprises to build infrastructure in the Arctic.
Greenland, also keen to benefit from rising Arctic activity, plans to expand the airports in the capital Nuuk, the tourist hub in Ilulissat and at Qaqortoq in southern Greenland to allow direct flights from Europe and North America.
The island lacks the simple infrastructure for its tiny population of only 56,000, has no roads between the country's 17 towns and, for now, only one commercial international airport, at Kangerlussuaq, western Greenland.
During a visit headed by Greenland's Premier Kim Kielsen to Beijing late last year, the delegation met representatives of engineering and construction company China Communications Construction Co (CCCC) and Beijing Construction Engineering Group (BCEG).
Now, Chinese construction companies have appeared on a list of 11 companies or consortia that have shown interest in the projects with an estimated cost of 3.6 billion Danish crowns ($595 million), according to Kalaallit Airports, a state-owned company set up to build, own and operate the airports.
Other interested companies are from Denmark, Iceland, Canada, the Netherlands and the Faroe Islands, the company’s chairman Johannus Egholm Hansen told Reuters.
The company expects to shortlist five or six of them this month or next and begin construction in October, he said.
Greenland’s government declined to comment on the Chinese interest.
Greenland says it can finance 2.1 billion crowns but will need external funding for the remaining 1.5 billion.
"Our visit to China should be viewed in the context of seeking funding to these future investments," Kielsen said during the visit to Beijing, following meetings with the Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM).
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