ATHENS, Greece (AP) – The top US military official said Friday that calls you made to your Chinese counterpart in the stormy final months of Donald Trump’s presidency they were “well within the duties and responsibilities” of their job.
In his first public comments on the talks, Gen. Mark Milley said such calls are “routine” and were made “to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case to ensure strategic stability.” The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke to The Associated Press and another reporter who was traveling with him to Europe.
Milley has been at the center of a firestorm amid reports that he made two calls to General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army to assure him that the United States was not suddenly going to war or attacking China.
Descriptions of the calls made last October and January were first aired in excerpts from the forthcoming book “Danger” by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. The book says that Milley told Li that she would warn him in case of an attack.
Milley offered only a brief defense of his calls on Friday, saying he plans a more in-depth discussion on the matter for Congress when he testifies at a hearing in late September.
“I think it is best if I keep my comments in the record until I do so in front of the legislators who have the legal responsibility to oversee the United States military,” Milley said. “I’ll go into whatever level of detail Congress wants to go into in a couple of weeks.”
Milley and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are scheduled to testify on September 28 before the Senate Armed Services Committee, in what was initially to be a hearing on the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan and the chaotic evacuation of Americans, Afghans and others from that country. .
Now, however, Milley is expected to face harsh questioning in the phone calls, which came during Trump’s turbulent final months in office when he challenged the results of the 2020 election. January, came two days after a violent mob attacked the United States Capitol in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the White House.
A special committee of the House of Representatives investigating the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill He’s asked for details on Milley’s calls. U.S. Representatives Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., And Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Committee leaders, have also sought records related to the November election, Trump’s transfer of power to Biden, and the riot.
Milley was appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Trump in 2019 and has remained in that position in the Biden administration. As president, Milley is the chief military adviser to the president and the secretary of defense.
The White House and the Pentagon chief have said they continue to have full confidence in Milley.
The new book says that Milley, fearful of Trump’s actions at the end of his term, called his Chinese counterpart twice to assure him that the United States was not going to attack China. A call was made on October 4. 30, four days before the US elections. The second call was on January 8, less than two weeks before Biden’s inauguration and two days after the Trump supporters’ uprising on Capitol Hill.
Some US lawmakers have said that Milley exceeded his authority and have asked Biden to fire him. Trump criticized Milley as a traitor, calling him “a complete nutcase” and saying that Milley “never told me about the calls that were made to China.”
Biden told reporters after the revelations in the book that “I have great confidence in General Milley.”
Milley’s office, in a statement this week, said the calls were intended to convey “reassurance” to the Chinese military and were in line with his responsibilities as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The statement from Milley’s spokesman, Colonel Dave Butler, also said the calls were “staffed, coordinated and communicated” with the Pentagon and other federal agencies.
According to the book, obtained by the AP, Milley assured his Chinese counterpart on the first call that “the US government is stable and everything is going to be fine.” He said he told Li: “We are not going to attack or carry out any kinetic operations against him.”
“If we are going to attack, I will call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise, ”Milley said.
Milley spoke with several other military leaders around the world after the January 6 riot; they included leaders from the UK, Russia and Pakistan. A description of those calls in January referred to “several” other counterparts with whom Milley spoke with similar messages of reassurance that the US government was strong and in control.
The second call was intended to allay Chinese fears about the events of January 6. But the book reports that Li was not so easily appeased, even after Milley promised, “We are 100 percent steadfast. Everything is fine. But democracy can sometimes be neglected. “
In response to the book, US Senator Marco Rubio, R-Florida, urged Biden to fire Milley, saying the general worked to “actively undermine” US commander-in-chief Trump.