The head of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said on Tuesday that calls to his Chinese counterparts at the end of Donald Trump’s term sought to “lessen” tension with Beijing and that the former US president never wanted to attack China.
“I know, I’m sure, President Trump had no intention of attacking the Chinese,” Milley said at a hearing before the Senate Committee on the Armed Forces.
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“My task at that time was to de-escalate. My message was consistent: keep calm and stability and de-escalate. We are not going to attack them, ”he said.
The calls between Milley and his Chinese counterpart, General Li Zuocheng, were first revealed in the book “Peril” (Danger), by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
The first call was on October 30, four days before the US presidential election. And the second was on January 8, two days after Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol to avoid the certification of the election victory of Democrat Joe Biden.
Some Republican lawmakers have accused Milley of exceeding his authority and asked him to resign.
In his testimony Tuesday to senators, Milley defended his actions, saying the calls were coordinated with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and then his acting successor Christopher Miller.
“The specific purpose of the October and January calls was generated by intelligence information that made us think that the Chinese were concerned about an attack by the United States,” Milley said.
“These military-to-military communications at the highest levels are critical to the security of the United States in order to deconfigure military actions, manage crises and prevent wars between great powers armed with nuclear weapons,” he explained.
“At no point did I try to change or influence the process, usurp authority or insert myself into the chain of command,” Milley said.
He added: “I firmly believe in civilian control of the armed forces as an essential fundamental principle for this republic and I am committed to ensuring that the armed forces stay away from internal politics.”
After the publication of excerpts from the book on September 15, President Biden renewed his trust in General Milley.
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