Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley admitted Wednesday that he would give his Chinese counterpart a heads up if the US launched an attack against Beijing, during a second day of grilling on Capitol Hill that touched on his two reported calls to the Chinese general.
”I said, hell, I’ll call you. But we’re not going to attack you,” Milley told the House Armed Services Committee about one of his conversations with Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army.
Milley was questioned about two calls he made to Li — in October 2020 before the presidential election and on Jan. 8, two days after the Capitol riot.
He told members of the panel that he reached out to Li to assure him that former President Donald Trump did not intend to launch a military strike.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) asked Milley if he informed Li that he would give the Chinese advance notice of an impending offensive.
Milley said there was intelligence pointing to concerns China had of a possible attack and he relayed the “persuasive” intelligence to then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper and others in the Trump administration.
“I am certain, guaranteed certain, that President Trump had no intent to attack and it was my task to make sure I communicated that. And the purpose was to de-escalate,” Milley said.
But Hartzler interrupted him and said she understood the intent of the call.
“Did you or did you not tell him that if we were going to attack you’d let him know?” she pressed.
“As part of the conversation, I said, Gen. Li, there’s not going to be a war. There’s not going to be an attack between great powers, and if it was, the tensions would build up, there would be calls going back and forth from all kinds of senior officials,” the general said.
”I said, hell, I’ll call you. But we’re not going to attack you. Trust me, we’re not going to attack you. These are two great powers, and I am doing my best to transmit the president’s intent, President Trump’s intent to ensure the incident doesn’t escalate,” Milley continued.
Hartzler said Milley’s actions were grounds for his resignation.
“You articulating that, that you would tell him, you would give him a call, is worthy of your resignation. I just think that’s against our country that you would call our No. 1 adversary and tell him that,” she told Milley.
According to “Peril,” the book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Milley told Li he would give the Chinese advance warning of an attack.
Milley testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday about the intelligence showing the Chinese were worried about an attack.
“I know, I am certain, that President Trump did not intend to attack the Chinese, and it was my direct responsibility by the secretary to convey that intent to the Chinese,” Milley told the senators, adding that other members of the Trump administration were aware of his contacts with Li.