Gen. Mark Milley is finally speaking out amid the controversy surrounding several calls he made to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in the final weeks of the Trump administration — calling the calls “perfectly within the duties and responsibilities” of his position.
Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the calls as “routine” to the Associated Press on Friday in his first public remarks since reports of the calls emerged, saying they were “to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability.”
The top US military officer’s brief defense was followed by his plan to discuss it with Congress later this month.
“I think it’s best that I reserve my comments on the record until I do that in front of the lawmakers who have the lawful responsibility to oversee the US military,” he said. “I’ll go into any level of detail Congress wants to go into in a couple of weeks.”
Milley is scheduled to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee Sept. 28 to discuss the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
His Friday statement comes days after the tell-all book “Peril,” by Washington Post staffers Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, revealed the general made several calls to counterpart Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army to assure him US stability.
Milley reportedly first called Li on Oct. 30 to reassure him that the US military “are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.” Milley reportedly went so far as to tell Li that if Trump did order military action against China, “I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”
He reportedly reached out to Li again on Jan 8, in the wake of the Capitol riot. During that conversation, Milley told Li that the US government was “100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes,” according to the book.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Joint Staff confirmed the calls took place and claimed they were “in keeping with [Milley’s] duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability.”