Naval Air Station Keflavík
PRIME MINISTER JAKOBSDÓTTIR: Good afternoon. I was just coming home from Malmo, Sweden, and Copenhagen, but very happy to be here and very happy to be able to have this meeting with Vice President of the United States. I hear that he has enjoyed his stay, and in his first visit to Iceland.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Very first. Very first.
Well, Prime Minister Jakobsdóttir, thank you so much for making time for this meeting and for all that your government has done to make this a truly meaningful day for me and my wife and our entire delegation.
We had a very good meeting today with President Jóhannesson where we talked about a broad range of issues, from our economic relationships to our strategic relationships. And I want to — I want to be one of the first to give an early congratulations to Iceland on the 75th anniversary of your independence.
PRIME MINISTER JAKOBSDÓTTIR: Yeah, thank you.
VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: The United States is proud of that fact that we were among the first nations to recognize Iceland’s independence. And it’s a — it has been a relationship not just through our treaty relationship and NATO, but it’s been a tie between our people that saw more than 700,000 Americans come to Iceland in the last year alone.
We’re anxious to seek ways to continue to build the economic ties. And I know we began an economic dialogue this year. We discussed that with many of your leading businessmen and women today. We look forward to finding ways we can open more doors for commerce.
And also, Madam Prime Minister, we’re truly grateful for the long-term strategic relationship for our common security. We’re grateful for the stand that you’ve made to support U.S. troops as they move through this region to coordinate with the Iceland Coast Guard in our efforts to provide for the security of this region and to support NATO’s efforts. With Russia increasing their activities in the Arctic region, the Arctic has become more important than ever before, and our cooperation is more important than ever before.
And we’re also grateful, with China’s increased activity and efforts to make the economic investments in the region, that, so far, Iceland has declined the Belt and Road Initiative.
And we also spoke today — and perhaps we can again — about the United States’ concerns about 5G and our desire to work with Iceland and other freedom-loving nations to find alternatives to essentially China’s state-based 5G operation.
But all of it is to say, thank you. Thank you for the great courtesy of returning from your trip so that we might be able to meet and begin a friendship. But the ties between our two nations, our shared history, is something the American people take a great deal of pride in.
I congratulate you on your leadership here in Iceland. And again, I want to thank you so much for your kindness and your hospitality.
PRIME MINISTER JAKOBSDÓTTIR: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.
Q It’s news to us that the Icelandic government has declined Belt and Road. Has the Foreign Minister confirmed this?
PRIME MINISTER JAKOBSDÓTTIR: Well, we are not going to take questions. But, as you know, the Icelandic government hasn’t opened up for Belt and Road. It has been in consideration, but we haven’t opened up.
But I would just like to say to Mr. Pence — Mr. Vice President, it’s true what you say that we have a long history, not just about defense and not just about economic relations, but also of a cultural relation.
As you know, almost 20 percent of the Icelandic people moved to the United States and Canada in late 19th century. So we actually have a population of what we call “West Icelanders.”
And because I’m a specialist in crime fiction, I was going to tell you that Icelandic crime fiction actually was invented over there. (Laughter.) So, it was imported to Iceland.
But we are going to talk about politics also. And in this meeting, we are going to talk a little bit about the Arctic and the greatest threat to the Arctic, which is the climate crisis, which is going to affect the Arctic more fast than we will see in other places on Earth. We are very concerned about that here in Iceland.
And as you know, Mr. Vice President, the core of our government program is really about several issues, but climate change is one of them. Gender equality is another. And we’re going to talk a little bit about that, I hope.
So I think there will be several issues, apart from the economic relations and defense and security relations that we’re going to talk about.
So now —
Q What are the main points —
PRIME MINISTER JAKOBSDÓTTIR: So now we’re going to need some time. Thank you. Thank you.