(NEWTON, Iowa) — Ron Paul returned to the campaign trail in Iowa on Wednesday, questioning why the United States needed to maintain a military presence in Australia, Germany, Japan and South Korea even as the death of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il raised concerns about the region’s stability.
“How long do we have to stay in Korea?” he asked at a campaign event at the Iowa Speedway in Newton. “We were there since I was in high school.”
Paul’s non-interventionist view for America is sure to incite even more criticism from his GOP rivals, who have been hammering the Texas congressman for his view that Iran should be able to develop a nuclear program for peaceful purposes.
Just Wednesday morning Mitt Romney became the latest Republican challenger to pounce.
“We have differing views on this,” said Romney. “Some of the people, actually one of the people, running for president thinks it’s O.K. for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. I don’t.”
Despite talking at great length on foreign affairs, Paul’s foreign policy views are apparently one of his greatest weaknesses. Almost half of all respondents said Paul’s foreign policy views were a major reason to reject him, according to the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll.
And an uneasy embrace was evident at Wednesday’s event when Paul took a question from a member of the audience who asked at what point the congressman would use force against another country.
“I don’t foresee a lot of times when there [are] fights going on around the world that we should get involved in,” said Paul. “I think our goal should be to avoid that.”
Paul returned to the campaign trail after being off for five days for the Christmas holiday. He looked out at all the reporters and television cameras and remarked on his rising popularity in the state.
“There does look like there are more cameras than there used to be,” said Paul adding “For many years, the crowds were very small.”
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Jeremy Diamond and Stephen Collinson, CNN Newswire
Manu Raju and Deirdre Walsh, CNN Newswire