Milley Defends China Calls After Book Cites Alarm Over Trump
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden and the U.S. military defended calls to China made by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley in the waning months of the Trump administration -- including after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol -- as part of his duties.
“The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs regularly communicates with Chiefs of Defense across the world, including with China and Russia,” Colonel Dave Butler, the spokesman for the Joint Staff, said in a statement Wednesday. “These conversations remain vital to improving mutual understanding of U.S. national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict.”
The Washington Post and CNN on Tuesday reported that, in a new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Milley was said to have spoken with Chinese General Li Zuocheng in both late October and on Jan. 8, telling him the U.S. wouldn’t suddenly go to war. Some Republicans and supporters of former President Donald Trump have said those actions mean Milley should resign or be fired.
Butler said in his statement that those actions were part of Milley’s job.
“His 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,” Butler said in this statement. “All calls from the Chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.”
In brief remarks Wednesday, Biden said that he has “great confidence in General Milley.”
Asked about the JCS chairman and his conversations with China, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said those talks came at an unusual time, when “the outgoing president fomented unrest.”
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who played a central role in Trump’s first impeachment, said he believed Milley should have gone public at the time with his concerns, rather than going around the president, as Costa and Woodward appear to suggest.
“What troubled me was the end run around civilian leadership,” Vindman told Bloomberg’s “Sound On.” “The more right answer would have been to make your voice heard and let the public know what’s going on. Doing the wrong thing, even for the right reasons must have consequences.”
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