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Milley defends calls to China after book cites alarm about Trump

(Bloomberg) — The US military defended its top officer’s calls to China in the waning months of the Trump administration — including after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol — as part of his duties, and the Biden administration expressed continued confidence in General Mark Milley.

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

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The Washington Post and CNN on Tuesday reported that, in a new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Milley was said to have spoken with Chinese General Li Zuocheng in both late October and on Jan. 8, telling him the U.S. wouldn’t suddenly go to war. Some Republicans and supporters of former President Donald Trump have said those actions mean Milley should resign or be fired.

Butler said in his statement that those actions were part of Milley’s job.

“His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability,” Butler said in this statement. “All calls from the Chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.”

Asked about Milley, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that “the president has complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism and his fidelity to our Constitution.” She also said the conversations with China came at an unusual time, when “the outgoing president fomented unrest.”

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