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Story highlights

Pence was responding to a question about the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo

The position lines him up more closely with Hillary Clinton

(CNN) —  

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence called Tuesday night for the US to be willing to use the military to hit the Syrian regime and to establish safe zones to protect civilians.

The answer seemingly put him at odds with running mate Donald Trump, who has largely advocated a pullback from foreign conflicts and requiring US allies to take on more of their own defense. It also lines him up more closely with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and his debate opponent, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, both of whom have advocated a Syrian no-fly zone.

“The United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike military targets of the Assad regime to prevent them from this humanitarian crisis that is taking place in Aleppo,” Pence said in reference to the besieged Syrian city.

“I truly do believe that what America ought to do right now is to immediately establish safe zones,” Pence said at the first and only vice presidential debate, at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, “so that families and vulnerable families with children can move out of those areas (and) work with our Arab partners in real time to make that happen.”

It wasn’t the only time Pence departed from his running mate’s script on foreign policy issues or denied some of Trump’s foreign policy pronouncements.

Pence repeatedly criticized Clinton and Kaine for the drawdown of US troops in Iraq, blaming Clinton for failing to negotiate an agreement with Iraq that would have provided legal protections for US troops there. While the Obama administration was not successful in making such an arrangement, Pence didn’t mention that the Obama White House inherited an agreement from President George W. Bush that required all US troops to leave Iraq by 2011 or that the Iraqi parliament had refused to grant US troops legal immunity if they stayed in the country.

Moreover, in a 2006 interview with CNBC, Trump said he wanted to see Bush, then still president, “get us out of Iraq, which is a total mess, a total catastrophe, and it’s not going to get any better. It’s only going to get worse.”

Pence also denied that he or Trump had ever praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a better leader than President Barack Obama, though both have spoken positively of him and the Indiana governor told CNN’s Dana Bash in September that he was a “stronger leader” than the current occupant of the Oval Office.

In Asia, Trump advocated letting US allies deal with the threat of a nuclear North Korea on their own, even suggesting that longtime US partners like South Korea and Japan obtain nuclear weapons themselves. Kaine pounced on this at one point, saying that “Trump believes that the world will be safer if more nations have nuclear weapons.”

Pence, for his part, outlined a position that didn’t sound much like Trump’s. The Indiana governor said that “we need an effective US diplomacy to marshal the nations in the Asian rim to put pressure on North Korea,” which is what the Obama administration and its predecessors have favored.

The White House, however, has opposed a no-fly zone in Syria. The safe zone would be an area inside the country that the US and allied planes would defend from Syrian or Russian attack. It raises thorny legal problems, because doing so without the host country’s permission means violating international law. And the