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Joint Chiefs of Staff defend Milley’s call to China promising to warn of possible attack

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley was following his “duties and responsibilities” when he promised his Chinese counterpart he would warn them of an impending attack during the final days of the Trump administration, a spokesman said.

Milley “regularly communicates with Chiefs of Defense across the world, including with China and Russia,” Joint Staff spokesman Col. Dave Butler said in a statement. “These conversations remain vital to improving mutual understanding of U.S. national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict.”

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Milley spoke with Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army, both right before the 2020 presidential election and after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, in an attempt to assure the Chinese leader that no attack was being orchestrated, according to a new book by Watergate journalist Bob Woodward and Washington Post reporter Robert Costa.

There were calls for Milley to resign following the news of the reported phone calls in which he said, “I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay. We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you," adding, “General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”

Butler noted that the calls with Li were in line “with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability. All calls from the Chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.”

“Also in keeping with his responsibilities as senior military advisor to the President and Secretary of Defense, General Milley frequently conducts meetings with uniformed leaders across the Services to ensure all leaders are aware of current issues,” the statement went on.

President Joe Biden still has confidence in Milley to fulfill the duties as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during Wednesday's press briefing.

"The president has complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism, and his fidelity to our Constitution," she said. "It's the obligation of every chairman of the Joint Chiefs to follow constitutional orders to prevent unlawful military action. ... That's what the president believes."

Psaki also dismissed the calls for the president to fire Milley, a sentiment mainly emanating from conservatives, saying, "I don't think the president is looking for the guidance of members of Congress who stood by while the president of the United States and the leader of their party fomented an insurrection and many of them were silent.”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby repeatedly declined to answer specific questions about the phone call between Milley and Li, though he said such conversations with foreign counterparts are within the chairman's role.

"It's also completely appropriate, and again, I'm not speaking to the validity of things that are in the book, but it is completely appropriate for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as the senior military adviser to both the secretary and president, to want to see those protocols reviewed on whatever frequent basis that he wants to do that," he said during Wednesday's briefing. "Again, I can't speak to the validity, but I've seen nothing in what I've read that would cause any concern."

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Milley, in the aftermath of the Capitol riot, also called a secret meeting at the Pentagon to review the process for military action, including for deploying nuclear weapons, in which he instructed the National Military Command Center not to take orders from anyone unless he was involved, according to the book, a copy of which was obtained by CNN.

"No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I'm part of that procedure," Milley told the officers, according to the book, before going one by one to make sure each person affirmed his comments.

Butler described the meeting as one “to remind uniformed leaders in the Pentagon of the long-established and robust procedures in light of media reporting on the subject. General Milley continues to act and advise within his authority in the lawful tradition of civilian control of the military and his oath to the Constitution.”

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Tags: News, Mark Milley, Donald Trump, 2020 Elections, China, Pentagon, Joint Chiefs, National Security

Original Author: Mike Brest

Original Location: Joint Chiefs of Staff defend Milley’s call to China promising to warn of possible attack

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