Walker: Chinese leaders should be taken 'to the woodshed'

Story highlights

  • Walker's recent hardline stance on China is at odds with his record as Wisconsin's governor
  • But Walker said there's no conflict between his positions due to the different priorities of a governor and president

Washington (CNN)Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Friday that Chinese leaders should be taken "to the woodshed," not the White House, and argued that his support for China as governor was not at odds with a new, hardline stance he's taken while running for president.

Earlier this week, Walker called on President Barack Obama to cancel a state dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping because of allegations of cyberattacks and militarization of the South China Sea. But as governor, he lobbied to meet personally with Xi in 2013 and appeared on China's state-run television in 2012.
"Governors aren't about foreign policy, they're about trade, which is exactly what I've done and many other great governors have done across the country," Walker told CNN's Jim Sciutto. "Why would we be giving one of our highest honors, an official state visit, to a country that has been involved in something that directly has attacked our own government? It just doesn't make any sense. If anything, we should be taking them to the woodshed on this issue, not to the White House."
    But when pressed by Sciutto, Walker said there's no conflict in the China stances, because a governor's job is to promote trade and a president's job is to set foreign policy.
    "So the reason I'm talking about it is not because I'm a governor today. The reason I'm talking about it is because I'm running for president of the United States. And I'm going to be in a position to affect that," Walker said.
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    The two-term Wisconsin governor entered the race at the front of the pack with Jeb Bush last month but, like many others, has slipped in the polls -- both nationally and in early primary states -- amid the surge of Donald Trump.
    He turned his focus to foreign policy this week, playing up his hawkish stances Friday in a speech to cadets at The Citadel in South Carolina. If elected, he said he would increase defense spending and take a tougher stance on radical Islam. But Walker would not go so far to say he would send troops to the Middle East to fight ISIS on his first day in office.
    "I don't see a reason today to do that," he said. "Certainly for us the most important thing we can do is lift the political restrictions this administration has put on the 3,000-some military personnel already in Iraq so they can go out and do what they're trained to do."
    Walker has taken heat from Bush and others for saying he would revoke the nuclear deal with Iran on his first day in office, and continued to slam the agreement when asked by Sciutto.
    "Let's be clear, the monitoring this proposes is an absolute joke. So anyone who pretends like that's somehow something that's extraordinary, it's not. This is some of the weakest monitoring," Walker said.
    Sciutto also pressed Walker over whether he backed a plan notably floated by Trump to end birthright citizenship, which is guaranteed in the 14th Amendment.
    "I'm not looking to change the Constitution," Walker said.