US President Donald Trump | Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
US President Donald Trump | Photo: Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg
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New Delhi: The United States’ top military officer twice called his Chinese counterpart in the final months of Donald Trump’s presidency to reassure him that the former president would not launch a military strike against China, according to a new book.

The first secret phone call took place on 30 October 2020, four days before the election that defeated Trump, and the second on 8 January 2021, two days after Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol, states the book ‘Peril‘, written by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

The details from the book have been reported by The Washington Post.

In the first call, Gen. Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is quoted as telling Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army: “General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay. We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”

The call was prompted by Milley’s review of American intelligence, which in the days leading up to the 2020 US presidential election, indicated that the Chinese believed the United States was preparing to attack.

The book states that this belief stemmed from “tensions over military exercises in the South China Sea, and deepened by Trump’s belligerent rhetoric toward China”.

It also mentioned that Milley even pledged to alert his counterpart if any such attack was planned by the US. “General Li, 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.”

The book, set to be released next Tuesday, is based on “contemporaneous notes, documents and interviews with over 200 unnamed firsthand participants and witnesses”.

In the second call to address fears about the events of the Capitol riot on 6 January, Milley said, “We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

But despite his attempt to address the Chinese concerns, the book noted that General Milley concluded that the situation was “grave” and General Li “remained unusually rattled”.

What Trump told Mike Pence

Milley spoke to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on 8 January to share how he believed Trump had “suffered a mental decline after the election”, to which, according to a call transcript obtained by the authors, Pelosi said,“This is bad, but who knows what he might do? He’s crazy. You know he’s crazy. He’s been crazy for a long time. So don’t say you don’t know what his state of mind is.”

Milley agreed and gave his word, saying “I can guarantee you 110 percent that the military, use of military power, whether it’s nuclear or a strike in a foreign country of any kind, we’re not going to do anything illegal or crazy”.

The same day, Milley summoned the country’s military’s top commanders to review the procedures for launching nuclear weapons and alerted officers that while the president alone could order such strikes, he also should be directly involved.

The authors also wrote that his alarm reached the highest-ranking officials of the administration including the CIA Director Gina Haspel, who reportedly told Milley, “We are on the way to a right-wing coup.”

The book also mentioned how Trump forced his VP Mike Pence to overturn election results and threatened to end their ties if he doesn’t do it.

When Pence said his job was to simply “open the envelopes”, Trump reportedly lashed at him saying “I don’t want to be your friend anymore if you don’t do this.”

According to the book, Trump later told Pence, “You’ve betrayed us. I made you. You were nothing.”

Trump Tuesday called the chairman’s reported actions “treason” and refuted the claims saying, “I did not ever think of attacking China.”

Also read: 20 years after 9/11, US has gone full circle. Back to where it started—China


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