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Denmark to spend more on Arctic defence as melting sea ice prompts jostle for control

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COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark said on Thursday it will significantly strengthen its defence capabilities in the Arctic, including long-range drones and radars, as shrinking sea ice has fast-tracked a race among global powers for control over resources and waterways.

The military build-up comes as both China and Russia have been making increasingly assertive moves in the region, even as Denmark and its Arctic neighbours have tried in recent decades to keep the region what they call a “low tension” area.

Lawmakers in the Nordic country agreed to spend half of the allocated 1.5 billion Danish crowns ($245 million) on drones to improve surveillance in Greenland, a semi-autonomous part of the Kingdom of Denmark.

Nearly 400 million will be spend on an air surveillance radar in the Faroe Islands located in the North Atlantic.

“We have seen an increase in foreign activities in the Arctic and the North Atlantic,” Defence Minister Trine Bramsen said in a statement.

“We need better surveillance and presence in the region - not to escalate conflicts, but because we need to take the threats seriously,” she said.

The United States also has increased focus on the Arctic and Greenland in recent years. Former president Donald Trump offered in 2019 to buy Greenland, the world’s largest island, from Denmark.

NATO-member Denmark currently has one aircraft, four helicopters and four ships to monitor the vast area. In addition to enforcing sovereignty, they handle fishing inspection and search and rescue operations. Six sleds powered by 80 dogs patrol the remote northeastern part.

($1 = 6.1260 Danish crowns)

Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Alexandra Hudson