WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. top general secretly called his Chinese counterpart twice last year over concerns then-President Donald Trump could spark a war with China as his potential election loss loomed and in its aftermath, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
U.S. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army on Oct. 30, 2020 – four days before the presidential election – and again on Jan. 8, two days after Trump supporters led a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol, the paper reported.
In the calls, Milley sought to assure Li the United States was stable and not going to attack and, if there were to be an attack, he would alert his counterpart ahead of time, the report said.
The report was based on “Peril,” a new book by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, which they said relied on interviews with 200 sources and is due to be released next week.
Milley’s office declined to comment. Representatives for Trump could not immediately be reached.
Asked about the report by reporters traveling with President Joe Biden aboard Air Force One, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment and referred them to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Department.
The Republican Trump named Milley to the top military post in 2018 but began criticizing him, as he has other appointees and former staffers, after losing the November election to Democrat Joe Biden and left the White House on Jan. 20.
Milley was motivated to contact Beijing the second time in part due to a Jan. 8 call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had asked the general what safeguards were in place to prevent an “unstable president” from launching a nuclear strike, the report said, citing a transcript of the call.
“He’s crazy. You know he’s crazy,” Pelosi told Milley in the call, according to the report.
According to the cited call transcript, the general replied, “I agree with you on everything.”
(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Howard Goller)
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