By Ivy Lewis, Staff Writer
U.S. General Mark Milley contacted Chinese military leader General Li Zuocheng twice in the final months of the Trump administration to mitigate tensions and reduce the risk of a possible war, according to reports in the book Peril by Washington Post editor Bob Woodward, and journalist Robert Costa.
The report states that Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Li of the People’s Liberation Army first on Oct. 30, 2020 and again on Jan. 8, 2021.
The first call was alleged to have taken place four days before the 2020 election, prompted by Milley’s review of an intelligence briefing, suggesting that the Chinese government thought the U.S. might attack China.
“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be OK,” Milley reportedly told Li.“We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”
In addition to assuring Li that the U.S. would not conduct military operations against China, Milley stressed that he would communicate any plans of attack ahead of time.
“If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise,” he said.
The second call allegedly took place on Jan. 8, two days after the Capitol Hill riots in response to Trump’s election loss. In this call, Milley attempted to sooth Li’s concerns that Trump might attack China.
“We are 100% steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes,” he allegedly stated in the call.
Li reportedly remained concerned that the U.S. might be planning to engage in military action against China, leading Milley to contact the admiral overseeing the U.S. Indo-Pacific command and recommend that the U.S. postpone training in the Asia and Pacific region.
Milley also arranged a meeting with senior military officers to discuss the procedure for launching nuclear weapons. He attempted to persuade military officers to swear an oath to involve Milley if Trump tried to launch nuclear weapons.
Milley’s spokesman, Col. Dave Butler, stated that Milley’s calls were necessary to fulfill his responsibilities as the most senior uniformed advisor to the president and to the secretary of defense.
“His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties … in order to maintain strategic stability,” he said.
“All calls from the chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency,” he said.
Former president Trump responded to the report, calling Milley’s actions “treasonous” and denying any intention of attacking China.
“Milley never told me about calls being made to China. From what I understand, he didn’t tell too many other people either,” he said.
“He put our country in a very dangerous position, but President Xi knows better and would’ve called me. Milley is a complete nutjob!”
Milley has been defended and criticized on largely partisan grounds.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., argued that Milley inappropriately revealed classified national security details in his calls to Li, putting the U.S. at risk and setting a worrying precedent.
“Milley has attempted to rationalize his reckless behavior by arguing that what he perceived as the military’s judgment (was) more stable than its civilian commander. It is a dangerous precedent that could be asserted at any point in the future,” he said.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., defended Milley, arguing that there were fears among politicians that Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior would lead to increased tensions and war.
“I was not the only senator who more than once told Gen. Mark Milley we were counting on him to be the last grown-up in the room if President Trump went entirely off the rails. It was a genuine concern,” he said.