The top US military officer is defending his phone calls to reassure Chinese Communist leaders that the United States did not intend to launch an attack on them at the end of the Trump administration.
In a just released statement, a spokesperson for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, said he “communicates regularly” with senior defense officials from around the world – including China and Russia – in the course of his duties, and that the appeals had been made. and coordinated according to the usual procedures.
“These conversations remain vital to improving mutual understanding of US national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity and avoiding unanticipated consequences or conflicts,” said Col. Dave Butler. “[Gen. Milley’s] appeals with the Chinese and others in October and January were consistent with these duties and responsibilities, reassuring in order to maintain strategic stability.
Some Republican lawmakers are calling on General Milley to resign or be fired based on revelations in a new book about the Trump administration by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. The authors wrote that General Milley had become so concerned about former President Trump’s alleged erratic behavior that he contacted Beijing, going so far as to tell his Chinese counterpart he would warn them if the United States launched a strike.
The statement does not deny any of Mr. Woodward’s and Mr. Costa’s claims, but indicates that all of General Milley’s messages have been “staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the agency.”
Former President Trump harshly criticized General Milley in light of the book’s revelations, while denying ever considering a military attack on China during his final weeks in office.
Some lawmakers in Washington are calling for General Milley’s impeachment, including Rep. Ronny Jackson, Republican of Texas, a retired Navy admiral and former White House doctor. Claiming the actions amounted to treason, Mr Jackson said the allegations in the book added to a “long list” of reasons General Milley had to leave.
“If this is true, he must be prosecuted, tried and convicted to the fullest extent of the law,” Jackson said in a Twitter message.
The new book also claims that General Milley told senior military officials not to launch a nuclear attack unless he is part of the decision-making process. But by law, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the chairman’s main military adviser and has no statutory authority over military units. On Wednesday, his spokesman said General Milley frequently held meetings with military officials to make sure they were aware of “current issues.”
“The nuclear weapons protocols meeting was intended to remind uniformed Pentagon leaders of the solid and long-established procedures in light of media reports on the subject,” Col. Butler said. “Gen. Milley continues to act and advise within the framework of his authority in the legal tradition of civilian control of the military and his oath to the Constitution.”