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‘China calls ‘Perfectly’ within scope of job’

WASHINGTON DC (AP): The top U.S. military officer said Friday that calls he made to his Chinese counterpart in the final stormy months of Donald Trump’s presidency were “perfectly within the duties and responsibilities” of his job.

In his first public comments on the conversations, Gen. Mark Milley such said calls are “routine” and were done “to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability.” The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke to The Associated Press and another reporter traveling with him to Europe.

Milley has been at the center of a firestorm amid reports he made two calls to Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army to assure him that the United States was not going to suddenly go to war with or attack China.

Descriptions of the calls made last October and in January were first aired in excerpts from the forthcoming book “Peril” by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. The book says Milley told Li that he would warn Li in the event of an attack.

Milley on Friday offered only a brief defense of his calls, saying he plans a deeper discussion about the matter for Congress when he testifies at a hearing later in September.

“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,” Milley said. “I’ll go into any level of detail Congress wants to go into in a couple of weeks.”

Milley and U.S. Defense Secretary Austin are scheduled to testify Sept. 28 b-efore the Senate Armed S-ervices Committee, in what initially was going to be a hearing on the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanis-tan and the chaotic evacuation of Americans, Afghans and others from that country. Now, however, Milley is expected to face tough questioning on the telephone calls, which came during Trump’s turbulent last months in office as he challenged the results of the 2020 election. The second call, on Jan. 8, came two d-ays after a violent mob a-ttacked the U.S. Capitol in an effort to prevent Congr-ess from certifying Joe Bi-den’s White House victory.

A special House committee that is investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol has asked for details about Milley’s calls. U.S. Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-M-iss., and Liz Cheney, R-W-yo, leaders of the committee, have also sought rec-ords related to the Nove-mber election, the transfer of power from Trump to Biden and the riot.

Milley was appointed Joint Chiefs chairman by Trump in 2019 and has remained in that post in the Biden administration. As chairman, Milley is the top military adviser to the president and to the defense secretary.

The White House and the Pentagon chief have said they continue to have full trust and confidence in Milley. The new book says Milley, fearful of Trump’s actions late in his term, tw-ice called his Chinese counterpart to assure him that the U.S. was not going to attack China.

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