The Danish ambassador who spoke with Cotton in August 2018, Lars Gert Lose, was “caught a little off guard” by the thought, a spokeswoman for the senator told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
It is unclear whether Cotton was the first to pitch the idea to Trump, who confirmed last weekend that he had been mulling it over. The senator’s spokeswoman told The Washington Post that Cotton brought it up in a conversation with the president more than a year ago.
Cotton defended the idea at a luncheon this week hosted by an Arkansas-based website, Talk Business & Politics, where he was asked why the U.S. might want to buy Greenland.
“You’re joking, but I can reveal to you that several months ago, I met with the Danish ambassador, and I proposed that they sell Greenland to us,” Cotton told the event moderator.
“It’s obviously the right decision for the United States, and anyone who can’t see that is blinded by Trump derangement,” he added, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
He also defended the idea to The Wall Street Journal, saying it would be a good military strategy.
“In the last few years China effectively tried to gain a military foothold in Greenland by offering financing for airport construction,” he told the newspaper. ”Purchasing it would keep it out of the hands of both the Chinese and the Russians. And it is rich in natural resources with untold economic potential.”
Proponents of the idea have argued that valuable shipping routes being opened by melting Arctic ice may fall into Russian or Chinese control, but that the U.S. could prevent that through ownership of Greenland.
Greenland, however, is an autonomous nation that is part of the kingdom of Denmark.
News that Trump had thought about purchasing it was met with surprise and mockery. Over the weekend, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called the idea “absurd.”
“Greenland is not for sale,” she said earlier this week. “Thankfully, the time where you buy and sell other countries and populations is over.”
In response, Trump canceled a planned visit to Denmark next month.
“I thought the prime minister’s statement that it was an absurd idea was nasty,” the president said Wednesday. “All she had to do was say, ‘No, we wouldn’t be interested.’”
Previously, Trump had said in a tweet that he appreciated the prime minister’s candor.
Greenland’s foreign minister, Ane Lone Bagger, also panned the idea: “We are open for business, but we’re not for sale.”