Top U.S. military official Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday that the calls he made to Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army during the final months of former President Donald Trump’s presidency were “within his duties and responsibilities.” This was the first-ever comment made by Milley regarding the controversy.
Milley has been in the middle of the controversy after reports emerged about the two calls he made to Li. During the calls, Milley allegedly told Li that the United States would not suddenly go to war with or attack China. Milley also reportedly told Li that he would warn the latter in the event of an attack. The supposed calls were reportedly made in October and in January this year. These were made public through the forthcoming book “Peril” by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
Some U.S. lawmakers say that Milley “overstepped” his authority and others called for President Joe Biden to fire him. After being told of the disclosures in the book, Biden said, “I have great confidence in Gen. Milley.”
Milley further said of the calls that they were routine and were done to “reassure both allies and adversaries in this case to ensure strategic stability.” His statements were made to the Associated Press and another reporter, both traveling with Milley to Europe.
The statements of Milley regarding the controversy were limited, noting that he plans to provide a more profound discussion when he testifies at a hearing by late September. Milley stated, “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 U.S. military. I’ll go into any level of detail Congress wants to go into in a couple of weeks.”
Aside from Milley, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is scheduled to testify on Sept. 28 before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The hearing was initially only about the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan and the evacuation of Americans, Afghans, and others from the country. However, the scope of the hearing changed as Milley is expected to answer questions regarding the calls to Li.
This is not the first time that Milley was questioned about the calls. A special House committee investigating the January 6 riot at the Capitol already asked for details regarding Milley’s calls. On the other hand, Trump called Milley treasonous and that the latter never told him about the calls made to China.