Presidential candidate Rubio vows to use U.S. power to guard economic interests

By Reuters

May 13, 2015 09:38 AM EDT

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio said on Wednesday that the United States must respond aggressively when rivals such as China and Iran take actions that threaten U.S. economic interests.

In an implicit criticism of U.S. President Barack Obama, Rubio, known for his hawkish views, said he would use American power to challenge nations like Russia and China when they pursue expansionist aims at sea, in the air, and in outer space or cyberspace.

"Russia, China, Iran or any other nation that attempts to block global commerce will know to expect a response from my administration," Rubio will say, according to excerpts of a speech he plans to deliver later on Wednesday at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In the excerpts of the speech, which is scheduled for 3.30 p.m. EDT, Rubio outlined a more aggressive approach to world affairs than Obama has pursued at a time when China is attempting to assert greater control over the South China Sea, a vital shipping route, and Iran has threatened commercial shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.

Rubio, a U.S. senator from Florida, called for a "robust commitment" to foreign assistance, in contrast to Republican presidential rival Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who wants to scale it back. Rubio, who is seeking his party's nomination in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, also wants to make military spending a priority even during peacetime. This would defy budget hawks in his party who have called for steep spending cuts to balance the budget.

Though national security took a back seat to economic concerns in the 2012 presidential election, Rubio and other Republican candidates have spent the past several months arguing that Obama has not done enough to protect the country from foreign threats.

Rubio, a son of Cuban immigrants, has also emerged as a leading critic of Obama's efforts to establish ties with the Communist island nation.

With new extremist groups like Islamic State emerging in the Middle East, the public may be lining up behind the Republican Party's traditionally hawkish approach to world affairs, despite the unpopularity of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars launched under the last Republican president, George W. Bush.

By a 5-percentage-point margin, Americans say Republicans have a better plan than Democrats for the so-called War on Terror, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a likely Republican candidate, caused a stir on Monday when he said he would have authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, just as his brother had done.

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