Secret US embassy cables released by Wikileaks show nations are racing to "carve up" Arctic resources - oil, gas and even rubies - as the ice retreats.They suggest that Arctic states, including the US and Russia, are all pushing to stake a claim.
The opportunity to exploit resources has come because of a dramatic fall in the amount of ice in the Arctic. The US Geological Survey estimates oil reserves off Greenland are as big as those in the North Sea.
The cables were released by the Wikileaks whistleblower website as foreign ministers from the eight Arctic Council member states - Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland - met in Nuuk, Greenland on Thursday to sign a treaty on international search-and-rescue in the Arctic and discuss the region's future challenges.
The cables claim the Danish Foreign minister Per Stig Moeller joked with the Americans saying "if you stay out, then the rest of us will have more to carve up in the Arctic".
Greenland is an autonomous Danish dependent territory with limited self-government however, the cables show that US diplomats believe Greenland "is on a clear track to independence" and see this as "a unique opportunity" for American gas and oil companies to get a foothold.
The-then US Ambassador to Denmark James P Cain said in the cables that he introduced Greenland's government to New York financiers "to help the Greenlanders secure the investments needed for such exploitation".