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Romney takes on the world as he vies for US presidency

It often appears that Mitt Romney is targeting the rest of the world as fiercely as he does his rivals for the party nomination and President Obama. Could his rhetoric damage US relations abroad?

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The economy, not foreign affairs, has dominated the presidential race. But sometimes the two issues overlap. Romney says China's monetary policies have hurt Americans and has promised that on the first day as president, he would designate China a currency manipulator, subjecting it to sanctions.

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Pantzalis cautioned Romney on his China remarks, especially with the communist giant and No. 2 world economy about to go through a leadership change.

"The Chinese have become incredibly nationalistic," Pantzalis said. "There is a major danger of messing up relations with China with hardline rhetoric later in the campaign, especially with a new leader trying to consolidate his power and prove his strength."

Romney described this week's meetings in Washington between Obama and the likely new leader, Vice President Xi Jinping, as "empty pomp and ceremony." In a column published in The Wall Street Journal, Romney wrote: "A nation that represses its own people cannot ultimately be a trusted partner in an international system based on economic and political freedom."

Among some of Romney's other foreign affairs comments:

• Obama's "worst foreign policy mistake yet" was signing a new treaty with Russia to further limit nuclear arsenals.

• The Palestinians are out to destroy Israel, not negotiate their way to a peaceful two-state solution.

• The U.S. should cut humanitarian aid – and China should pick up the slack.

Romney's tough stance on illegal immigration is unlikely to garner much favor in Latin America, the source of most of the immigrants. The position comes despite Romney's family history: His father was born in Mexico and the candidate still has relatives there.

Romney's criticism of Obama's Iran policy is particularly relevant as the administration scrambles to head off a feared Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear installations.

Obama says he's not ruled out using military force, but he has not been so directly threatening. Romney takes a far harder line and says he would stand much closer to Israel.

As if to draw a line under his Iran policy, Romney said in one Republican debate: "If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if we elect Mitt Romney, if you elect me as the next president, they will not have a nuclear weapon."

In U.S. presidential elections, it remains axiomatic that a candidate trying to win a party's nomination plays more to the extremes when seeking a place on the ballot and then charts a more moderate course in the final election campaign. Even at that, however, history teaches that it often is far easier to make campaign promises than to fulfill them once in office.

Just ask Obama, who vowed that he would close the U.S. military prison for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during his first year in office. That still hasn't happened – Congress has stood in the way of such action – and the pledge lives on mostly as an issue the Republicans use against the president.

Williamson said Romney wouldn't have similar problems: "He's been careful not to make statements he could not deliver upon if elected."

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