WASHINGTON — China is an "economic threat" to the United States and is also building up its military to challenge American naval presence in the South China Sea, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said Wednesday.
Romney, seeking the nod to square off against US President Barack Obama in 2012, said he shared the views of tough-talking tycoon Donald Trump, who has railed against Washington's failure to stand up to China's trade practices.
"We see eye to eye on China," Romney told US broadcaster MSNBC.
"Not only as an economic threat, cultural threat, (but) down the road they're building a very strong military with potentially the intent to dissuade us from sending ships to the South China Sea, military ships," he said.
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, is currently second in the field of Republican presidential contenders, trailing Texas Governor Rick Perry, recent polls show.
Romney had already positioned himself as a possible antagonist to the world's largest nation and number two economy.
Unveiling his economic plan in early September, he vowed to lower taxes, cut red tape and end trade "surrender" to countries like China.
"We're going to have trade policies that open markets for America (and) we're going to clamp down in China when they cheat," he said on Wednesday.
Earlier this month Romney accused China of pursuing an economic development policy that "relies on the unfair treatment of US companies and the theft of their intellectual property."
Last week he blasted Obama's decision not to sell Taiwan new F-16 fighter jets, charging he kowtowed to China at a time when Beijing is engaged in an "intensive military buildup."
Romney took renewed swipes against Obama on MSNBC, saying the president "had never been a leader before" and "doesn't have a clue when it comes to getting this economy going again."
Romney, who presents himself as a successful businessman, had been the early Republican frontrunner but now trails Perry, although polls show he would be a stronger match against Obama.
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