Book: Top US officer feared Trump could order China strike
Fearful of Donald Trump’s actions in his final weeks as president, the United States’ top military officer twice assured his Chinese counterpart that the two nations would not go to war, according to a forthcoming book.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army that the United States would not strike. One call took place on Oct. 30, 2020, four days before the election that defeated Trump. The second call was on Jan. 8, 2021, just two days after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of the outgoing commander in chief.
Milley went so far as to promise Li that he would warn his counterpart in the event of a U.S. attack, according to the book “Peril,” written by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Milley told him in the first call, according to the book. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”
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The second call was meant to placate Chinese fears about the events of Jan. 6. But the book reports that Li wasn’t as easily assuaged, even after Milley promised him, “We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”
Milley believed the president suffered a mental decline after the election, agreeing with a view shared by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) in a phone call they had Jan. 8, according to officials.
Pelosi has previously said that she spoke to Milley that day about “available precautions” to prevent Trump from initiating military action or ordering a nuclear launch, and she told colleagues she was given unspecified assurances that there were longstanding safeguards in place.