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The White House on Thursday pushed back against Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson’s claim that China is involved in the conflict in Syria.
“I have not seen any evidence of Chinese military involvement in Syria,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice told reporters when asked about Carson’s remarks.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, who grinned when ABC News’s Jonathan Karl asked the question, later appeared at the lectern and said China generally does not involve itself in Middle Eastern conflicts.
“It’s worth stepping back and noting China makes it a practice to not get extended into military conflicts in the Middle East,” he said. “Their policy over many years and decades has been to not be overextended in military exercises.”
Carson’s claim, made during Tuesday night’s GOP primary debate in Milwaukee, Wis., raised questions about whether the retired neurosurgeon and first-time political candidate has the foreign policy chops to serve as commander in chief.
When asked by Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo whether he supports President Obama’s decision to send "fewer than 50" U.S. special operations troops to Syria, Carson suggested he did, but offered up a questionable description of the region.
“We also must recognize that it's a very complex place,” Carson said. “You know, the Chinese are there, as well as the Russians, and you have all kinds of factions there.”
Top Carson adviser Armstrong Williams backed up the candidate’s claims on Wednesday.
"From our own intelligence and what Dr. Carson's been told by people who are on the ground who are involved in that region of the world, it has been told to him may times over and over, that the Chinese are there,” he said on MSNBC.
Chinese media with close ties to the ruling Communist Party have said the country’s government has no role in Syria.