By JILL COLVIN
GOFFSTOWN, N.H. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he hasn’t yet decided whether to launch a campaign for the Republican nomination for president. But he sounded an awful lot like a candidate at a town hall event Monday evening.
Christie peppered his responses with phrases like “if I’m president” as he answered questions on domestic and foreign policy for nearly two hours at the Village Trestle, a bar in Goffstown, New Hampshire. He later attended a house party at the Bedford home of New Hampshire business owner and investor Bill Greiner, where he took questions and mingled with potential backers.
Christie, who has been working to distinguish himself in a crowded field of declared and potential Republican candidates, mocked President Barack Obama for calling the U.S. the most respected country on Earth last week and called for a tougher stance against China’s activity in the South China Sea, where it claims control and is building islands.
Christie called for a “military approach” to China’s advances to “let them know there are limits to what they’re allowed to do.”
“That is an issue that we can handle militarily by going out there and making sure that we show them that we don’t respect their claims to these artificial islands in the South China Sea that they’re building that they’re saying are theirs that are hundreds and hundreds of miles from the coast of China and are clearly in international waters,” Christie said adding: “We need to send that signal to the Chinese very clearly that we do not acknowledge nor will we respect their claims to those areas.”
The U.S. military has begun actively — and more publicly — challenging China’s sovereignty claims over the half a dozen artificial islands Beijing has been rapidly constructing. The U.S. refuses to recognize China’s sovereignty over disputed islands and Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently said the U.S. would continue to enforce freedom of navigation in what it considers international waters.
Christie also criticized this country’s approach to education, suggesting that textbooks should be replaced by iPads. He is scheduled to deliver a major speech on the topic in Iowa on Thursday.
Christie has been making repeat visits to the early-voting state of New Hampshire as he prepares for a potential run.
He says he’ll make a decision about whether he’s running later this month.
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