Joint Chiefs spokesperson confirms Milley calls with China, defends them as routine

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine General Mark Milley leaves a closed-door briefing with members of the House regarding the situation in Afghanistan and the evacuation effort on Tuesday, August 24, 2021.
Greg Nash

Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesperson Col. Dave Butler on Wednesday confirmed that Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley called his Chinese counterparts after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol but said those calls were routine.

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

The statement comes in response to reports that a forthcoming book says Milley once told his Chinese counterpart that he would give a heads up before any attack on China by the U.S.

“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,” Milley said, according to an excerpt from a new book by veteran journalist Bob Woodward and The Washington Post’s Robert Costa.

“All calls from the Chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency,” Butler said in Wednesday’s statement.

The forthcoming book also says Milley conducted secret meetings at the Pentagon after Jan. 6 to ensure former President Trump could not launch a military attack.

“The meeting regarding nuclear weapons protocols was to remind uniformed leaders in the Pentagon of the long-established and robust procedures in light of media reporting on the subject,” Butler said in the statement.

The book’s excerpts have sparked an outcry from many Republicans. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has demanded President Biden fire Milley, saying he leaked classified information to the Chinese.

Trump has also weighed in.

“If the story of ‘Dumbass’ General Mark Milley … is true, then I assume he would be tried for TREASON in that he would have been dealing with his Chinese counterpart behind the President’s back and telling China that he would be giving them notification ‘of an attack,’ ” Trump said in a statement.

The White House is standing by Milley. White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday said Biden has “complete confidence” in Milley.

Updated at 1:51 p.m.

Tags Classified information Defense Department Donald Trump Jan. 6 attack Jen Psaki Joe Biden Joint Chiefs Marco Rubio Mark Milley Pentagon Peril
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