US General Milley Strongly Defends Calls With China
WASHINGTON, Sept.28 (Reuters) – Gen. Mark Milley, the U.S. military’s top officer, on Tuesday defended calls with China that raised Republicans’ demands for his resignation, saying he aimed to appease the tensions with Beijing and not to “usurp authority”. “
The remarks were Milley’s first detailed defense of his actions since a book detailed what he described as “secret” calls with General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army on October 30, 2020 and again. January 8.
The book cited Beijing’s concerns that then-President Donald Trump could start a war with China as his potential electoral loss looms and in its aftermath.
Milley largely confirmed the story’s premise, but dismissed the idea that the calls were secret, saying they were coordinated with the U.S. government.
“I know, I’m sure, President Trump had no intention of attacking the Chinese and it is my direct responsibility to convey presidential orders and intent,” Milley told the Senate committee of the armed forces.
“My message was once again consistent: calm, steady, de-escalating. ‘We are not going to attack you.'”
President Joe Biden has backed Milley throughout the controversy surrounding the appeals, saying he has “great faith” in him. This is the latest controversy surrounding the top US military officer, which sparked an uproar last year after accompanying Trump to a church for a photoshoot after authorities cracked down on rights protesters civic.
He later said he regretted it, saying it created the impression of an army involved in domestic politics.
Milley publicly confirmed intelligence that led US officials to believe China was “concerned about an attack” by the United States.
Milley admitted to speaking on Jan. 8 with Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, who the Washington Post said asked the general what safeguards were in place to prevent an “unstable president” to launch a nuclear strike.
“He’s crazy. You know he’s crazy,” Pelosi told Milley, the newspaper reported, citing a transcript of the call.
Milley, in his remarks to Congress, said Pelosi asked him on January 8 if Trump’s actions could lead to an accidental nuclear missile launch.
He responded by assuring him of guarantees and added: “I am not qualified to determine the sanity of the President of the United States.”
Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee: “At no time did I attempt to change or influence the process, usurp authority or fit into the chain of command. “
Trump, in a statement, said he “never even thought of attacking China.” But after the initial account of Milley’s calls with China surfaced, Trump said Milley should be fired if they were true.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio has called for Milley’s resignation. Senator Rand Paul said he should be sued if the book’s account is true.
Some of the strongest concerns have come from House lawmakers, where Milley will testify on Wednesday.
Reporting by Phil Stewart and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler
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