Katrin Jakobsdottirannounced she will opt to keep “prior commitments” instead of meeting with Mr Pence when he visits in early September, and will instead attend a trade union conference in Sweden.
The conference is one day before Mr Pence is set to arrive in her country, but she said she does not plan on returning in time anyway.
“This visit, that was organised by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, has been bouncing a lot around the calendar so that it has been very difficult to organise oneself around it,” Ms Jakobsdottir told Icelandic broadcaster RUV during an interview on Tuesday.
But, she insisted that it was “absolutely not” a snub for the Americans, in spite of the plan being announced after Donald Trump cancelled a trip to Denmark over a perceived insult from that country’s prime minister.
She noted that she had previously met with US secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr Pence is supposed to discuss the strategic importance of Iceland in the Arctic, as well as Nato’s efforts against Russia in the region.
Just last month, the US announced it would invest $57 million in infrastructure in Iceland.
Support free-thinking journalism and subscribe to Independent MindsBut, in spite of Ms Jakobsdottir’s insistence that she means no disrespect to Mr Pence, others aren’t so sure.
“This is unprecedented for an Icelandic prime minister,” Thor Whitehead, a historian, told the Associated Press. “I doubt any other Western leader would decide to address a friendly conference abroad instead of welcoming a major foreign ally.”