COLUMBIA, S.C. — Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker says the United States under his leadership would aggressively confront what he describes as "evil" and "radical Islamic terrorism."
The Wisconsin governor plans to lay out his foreign policy agenda Friday in a speech at The Citadel, a military college in the early-voting state of South Carolina.
According to excerpts released by his campaign, Walker will accuse President Barack Obama of wide-ranging weakness on the world stage, from the proposed nuclear deal with Iran to his handling of relations with China and Russia.
"As president, I will send the following message: the retreat is over," Walker says. "American leadership is back and, together with our allies, we will not surrender another inch of ground to terrorists or any other power that threatens our safety."
The greatest challenge, Walker says, is Islamic State militants who have taken over portions of Iraq and Syria.
"America is a force for good in the world. Radical Islamic terrorists are agents of pure evil," Walker said.
"The rest of the world is watching how we confront the challenge of the Middle East," he said. "How can we deter our sophisticated adversaries in Eastern Europe and competitors in the South China Sea if we cannot defeat the barbarians of ISIS and roll back the theocrats in Tehran?"
The excerpts do not indicate whether Walker will call for more U.S. troops to be dedicated to the region. He is among several Republican presidential candidates who have called for more aggressive action against the Islamic State, often called ISIS or ISIL, but avoided the details of what military action might involve.
One notable exception is Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the state where Walker has chosen to deliver his speech. Graham has called for 10,000 troops each in Syria and Iraq, and says the necessary Middle East fight will involve American deaths.
Walker argues that the nation cannot afford to elect an "untested" candidate. "I have been tested like no other candidate in this race," he said. He has cited his record of standing up to unions and winning three statewide elections in four years, including one recall election, in a competitive state.
As a governor, Walker does not have any active role in American foreign policy or have security clearance to get briefings from military leaders or U.S. intelligence operations. Walker has no military service record. He has conducted foreign trade missions as governor, including a 2013 trip to China where he met with President Xi Jinping.
Walker called earlier this week for Obama to cancel Xi's upcoming state visit to the United States. Walker says the U.S. should punish China for alleged currency manipulation and human rights abuses.
Asked earlier this week how a Walker administration would resolve disagreements with the Chinese government without face-to-face meetings, the governor offered no specifics. "You have to start dealing with your staff and calling that out and send a strong message to China that there is different leadership," he told reporters during a campaign stop in Greenville, South Carolina.
About the same time Walker is speaking at The Citadel, his GOP rival Marco Rubio will deliver his own foreign affairs address nearby at the Charleston Metro Chamber's World Trade Center.
Rubio called for the U.S. to take a firm stand in dealings with China in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal that appeared Thursday night on the newspaper's website. "A strong America — militarily, economically and morally — is the only path to lasting peace and partnership between the U.S. and China," he wrote.
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