Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman said Wednesday that recent comments by rivals Herman Cain and Mitt Romney raise concerns about taking the nation's security and economic policies toward China in the wrong direction.
"It can lead to misguided policies economically, militarily and from a regional security standpoint that can be very damaging to this nation," Huntsman said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Huntsman said the United States has to wield its power in the right ways.
"Let's get serious about the country that will really matter most, and we've got to make this relationship work," Huntsman said "We have to deal with China economically; we've got to deal with them from a security standpoint."
On Monday, Cain said in a PBS interview that China is a military threat to the United States and that his strategy in dealing with that nation is to outgrow it economically.
"They've indicated that they're trying to develop nuclear capability and they want to develop more aircraft carriers like we have. So, yes, we have to consider them a military threat," Cain said on Monday's NewsHour.
But China detonated its first nuclear device in 1964.
Meanwhile, Romney has said he wants to impose tariffs on Chinese goods in response to China's manipulation of its currency.
"Of course, we'd get the same thing in return. We'd get a trade war," Huntsman said. "It's pretty simple. And that's the last thing this country should want when we're staring down the prospects of a second recession."
While Cain and Romney have been leading the GOP contest, Huntsman has trailed badly, barely registering in early polls. On Wednesday Huntsman was trying to generate traction among an audience of about 200 in early voting South Carolina. Huntsman stopped at Sun City Hilton Head, home to a large block of reliable Republican voters ahead of a debate on national security next week in Spartanburg.