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Sen. Tom Cotton. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) argued Monday that acquiring Greenland "would secure vital strategic interests for the United States" in a New York Times op-ed.

Why it matters: Cotton cites China's interest in the island, especially given its proximity to North America and the Arctic, as reason that the U.S. should make a play for it. Greenland's abundance of rare-earth minerals — integral to high-tech manufacturing — also makes it attractive to China, which currently dominates the world market for such materials.

  • China already attempted to buy a former American naval base in Greenland in 2016 and to build 3 airports there in 2018. The attempts were blocked by the Danish government and lobbying from the Trump administration to Denmark, respectively.
  • "Beijing understands not only Greenland’s geographic importance but also its economic potential," Cotton wrote.

The big picture: Cotton, a staunch Trump defender, says he floated the idea of buying Greenland with the Danish ambassador just last year.

  • Last week, reports indicated that Trump was interested in purchasing the island, which operates semi-autonomously as part of Denmark, prior to a meeting with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. After Frederiksen dismissed the idea, Trump canceled the meeting, kickstarting a diplomatic kerfuffle.

Of note: Cotton's op-ed repeatedly compared the idea to the purchase of Alaska: "Just look at what American sovereignty has meant to Alaskans compared with conditions in Siberia under Russian control."

  • He also argued there's historical interest in the idea, as the Truman administration offered Denmark $100 million to acquire Greenland in 1946.

Go deeper: Where Tom Cotton breaks with Trump on U.S. foreign policy

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Driving the news: The announcement comes as health experts and scientists warn of the more transmissible coronavirus variants, per Reuters.

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