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Pence to visit Iceland over concerns of ‘Russian aggression’ in Arctic region

Vice President Mike Pence (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to visit Iceland on September 4 for “national security-focused” discussions on Russian and Chinese “incursions” in the Arctic Circle, Reuters reports, citing a senior U.S. presidential official.

He leaves on September 3 with Britain and Ireland on the itinerary.

The United States has expressed concerns over Russia’s aggressive behavior in the Arctic as countries in the area vie for access to minerals amid melting ice in the polar region.

According to a mid-August White House announcement, Pence’s trip is meant to “highlight Iceland’s strategic importance in the Arctic and NATO’s efforts to counter Russian aggression in the region.”

However, Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir has “prior commitments” and won’t meet Pence, U.S. National Public Radio reported.

She will be at the Council of Nordic Trade Unions’ meeting in Sweden.

“It was already known that I was offered to be the keynote speaker at the annual convention of the Nordic trade unions a long time ago, and like everyone knows I’ve never been one to shy away from labor market matters,” Jakobsdottir said.

The prime minister said that, when Pence arrives in Iceland, “he will meet with Iceland’s finest leaders.”

The United States has plans to house two fighter jet squadrons — 18-24 jets at a time – in a project worth $57 million at the Keflavik airport near Reykjavik, the Iceland Review reported last month.

In London, Pence will meet with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson regarding his intention for Britain to leave the European Union.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar will host Pence in Dublin for talks before he embarks on a separate trip to Shannon where he’ll attend events to celebrate his Irish heritage.