TASIILAQ, Greenland — In this coastal town of about 2,000 people in eastern Greenland, residents weren't sure whether to believe the news: Could President Donald Trump really be serious about wanting to buy Greenland?
“I think we take it as a sick joke by a crazy president," said Anna Kûitse Kúko, 63, who has lived in Tasiilaq nearly all of her life and teaches English here. The remark was one of several from local residents who reacted with a mixture of mockery and anger to the reports, which originated with a report by in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
According to the reports, Trump has repeatedly asked advisers and his White House counsel to explore the possibility of acquiring the 811,000-square-mile island in the North Atlantic, which belongs to Denmark and is home to about 56,000 people.
NBC News confirmed that Trump had expressed interest in buying the island, which has natural resources including coal and uranium and already houses an American airbase, part of the U.S.'s ballistic missile early warning system.
It's not clear how much the United States would offer for Greenland, and whether Denmark would be amenable to a sale. The U.S. has looked into buying Greenland twice previously, in 1867 and then 1946, when President Harry Truman offered $100 million but Denmark declined to sell.
Greenland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted that the island was not looking for a buyer: "Greenland is rich in valuable resources such as minerals, the purest water and ice, fish stocks, seafood, renewable energy and is a new frontier for adventure tourism. We're open for business, not for sale."
The office of Greenland's Premier Kim Kielsen also pushed back on the idea of a sale: "We have a good cooperation with U.S.A., and we see it as an expression of greater interest in investing in our country and the possibilities we offer," the office said in a statement. "Of course, Greenland is not for sale. Because of the unofficial nature of the news, the government of Greenland has no further comments."
A spokesman for the Danish Foreign Ministry said that a statement was forthcoming.
In Nuuk, Greenland's capital, Thomas Juul-Pedersen didn't know quite how to react to the reports on Trump's interest.
“I honestly don’t know what to say," Juul-Pedersen, science and education coordinator at the Greenland Climate Research Centre, said in an email, "as I have a hard time taking it seriously.”
Niels Tvis Knudsen, an associate professor emeritus at Aarhus University in Denmark who has done fieldwork in east Greenland since the 1970s, said he's concerned about outsiders coming in to exploit the country's natural resources and take advantage of its lack of government infrastructure.
“They don’t have an army," he said. "They don’t have an embassy. They don’t have any of those things that a normal state has.”
Online, locals mocked the idea of Trump's interest in buying their homeland.
“Wow I didn't know trump knew greenland existed,” tweeted Miki Fleischer from Nuuk.
“Oh please God no,” wrote Emil Malta in response to the idea.
Another resident reposted a parody photo of a traditional Greenlandic landscape unexpectedly dwarfed by a glittering gold Trump Tower.
"You cannot be serious! We are not something you can just buy. Keep away from our country," said Greenlander Allan Schroder in a series of angry tweets.
Denmark's former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen expressed confusion over the suggestion. "It must be an April Fool’s Day joke ... but totally out of season!” he wrote.
Rufus Gifford, former U.S. ambassador to Denmark, called the idea "a complete and total catastrophe."
Greenland "is remarkably pristine and complex. A place unlike any other corner of the planet. It simply must be handled with immense care and the best intentions for the people there and the global climate," he wrote. "If anyone believes Trump has either in mind, please reconsider your reality."
Denise Chow reported from Tasiilaq, Greenland, and Caroline Radnofsky reported from London.