America’s top military officer is defending his telephone calls to reassure China’s communist leaders that the U.S. wasn’t planning to launch an attack against them in the waning days of the Trump administration.
In a just-released statement, a spokesman for Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said he “regularly communicates” with senior defense officials around the world — including China and Russia — as part of his duties, and that the calls were made and coordinated under regular procedures.
“These conversations remain vital to improving mutual understanding of U.S. national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity, and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict,” said Col. Dave Butler. “[Gen. Milley‘s] calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities, conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability.”
Some Republican lawmakers are calling for Gen. Milley to resign or be fired based on the revelations from a new book on the Trump administration by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. The authors wrote that Gen. Milley became so concerned about former President Trump’s alleged erratic behavior that he reached out to Beijing, going so far as to tell his Chinese counterpart that he would warn them if the U.S. launched a strike.
The statement doesn’t deny any of the claims made by Mr. Woodward and Mr. Costa, but said any messages initiated by Gen. Milley were “staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.”
Former President Trump has harshly criticized Gen. Milley in light of the book’s revelations, while denying he ever contemplated a military attack on China in his final weeks in office.
Some lawmakers in Washington are calling for Gen. Milley‘s removal, including Rep. Ronny Jackson, Texas Republican, a retired Navy admiral and former White House physician. Saying the actions amounted to treason, Mr. Jackson said the allegations in the book add to a “long list” of reasons why Gen. Milley must leave.
“If this is true, he needs to be prosecuted, tried and sentenced to the fullest extent of the law,” Mr. Jackson said in a Twitter message.
The new book also claims that Gen. Milley told senior military officials not to launch a nuclear attack unless he was part of the decision-making process. But by law, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the senior military adviser to the president and has no statutory authority over military units. On Wednesday, his spokesman said Gen. Milley frequently conducts meetings with leaders throughout the military to ensure they are aware of “current issues.”
“The meeting regarding nuclear weapons protocols was to remind uniformed leaders in the Pentagon of the long-established and robust procedures in light of media reporting on the subject,” Col. Butler said. “Gen. Milley continues to act and advise within his authority in the lawful tradition of civilian control of the military and his oath to the Constitution.”