Top U.S. Military Officer Defends Himself on the Results of His Conversation with China

A senior U.S. military officer Tuesday told the U.S. Congress that two phone conversations with his Chinese counterpart in the final months of the Trump administration were conducted publicly and in response to well-founded concerns.

He said top officials in former President Trump’s administration were aware of this phone call, in which he assured China that Trump was not planning to launch an attack in the final weeks of his White House term.

Several Republican congressmen have called on President Joe Biden to fire General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for his actions which they see as a violation of the US tradition of the civilian side, the president, having control over the military.

But Milley defended the call, saying he did so in response to “concerning intelligence reports” that China was concerned about a possible US attack. The phone conversations took place on October 30, 2020 and January 8, 2021.

“I know, I believe, that President Trump did not intend to attack China, and the onus is on me to convey the president’s orders and intentions,” Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee, referring to a telephone conversation he had with General Li Zuo-cheng from the Senate Armed Services Committee. Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

“My job at that time was to reduce tension,” he said. “My message is also consistent: Stay calm, steady, and reduce tension. We will not attack you.”

The telephone conversation was first described in a recently published book, entitled “Peril” and written by two Washington Post journalists, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, in which the book describes the final weeks of the Trump presidency.

After it was reported, Trump called the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff a “crazy act” and said Milley “never told him about the phone conversation with the Chinese side.”

But Milley said the first call was ordered by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, while 11 people were present on the second call, and he later informed Secretary of State Pompeo and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows at the time.

Milley said the second call, which came two days after hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to prevent congress from certifying Biden’s victory in last November’s election, was conducted at the request of China and coordinated with the Office of Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller.

Milley said he was committed to civilian control of the US military.

“Civil control over the military is an ingrained and essential principle for the survival of the republic,” Milley said. And he added, “I am committed to ensuring that the military always does not interfere in domestic politics.” (jm/my)

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