'I Can't Speak to Validity': Pentagon Spokesman Elusive Over Milley's Alleged Secret Calls to China

© REUTERS / EVELYN HOCKSTEINU.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley discusses the end of the military mission in Afghanistan during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., September 1, 2021
U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley discusses the end of the military mission in Afghanistan during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., September 1, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.09.2021
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On Wednesday, President Joe Biden said he has "complete confidence" in top US general Mike Milley who is now under fire over reports he may have overstepped his authority during Donald Trump's presidency.
The US Department of Defence (DoD) has refused to confirm or reject claims from a new book asserting that General Mike Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, usurped the chain of command under former President Donald Trump.
© REUTERS / JIM YOUNG U.S. President Donald Trump and Gen. Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, speak at the 119th Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. December 8, 2018
 U.S. President Donald Trump and Gen. Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, speak at the 119th Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. December 8, 2018 - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.09.2021
U.S. President Donald Trump and Gen. Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, speak at the 119th Army-Navy football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. December 8, 2018
The upcoming book by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa reportedly claims that Milley, who allegedly thought then-US President Trump was suffering a mental decline, called his Chinese counterpart Li Zuocheng in late 2020 and early 2021 in a bid to prevent a possible military conflict with China.
Excerpts from the book titled "Peril" were first revealed by The Washington Post ahead of its release slated for 21 September.
Referring to the book's allegations in an interview with Fox News anchor Jennifer Griffin, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said that he "can't speak to the validity" of the claims and that he sees "nothing" in what he has read that "would cause any concern".

"It is completely appropriate for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the senior military adviser to both the secretary and the president to want to see those protocols reviewed on whatever frequent basis he wants to do that", Kirby said.

The Pentagon spokesman also declined to elaborate on the details regarding the book's claims that Milley secretly told the Chinese military that he would warn them if Trump orders a strike against Beijing.
"All I've seen is the same reporting that you've seen Jen. I can't speak to the specifics of the conversation", Kirby said.

When asked by another reporter after the interview as to why he was not fully denying such a "serious allegation", the DoD spokesman said: "It's not that I'm not denying it, I'm going to refuse to speak to specific anecdotes that are in this book, I'm in no position to do that".

Kirby made it clear that he was "certainly not going to sign us up to releasing transcripts of [Milley-Li] conversations that occurred before we took office", adding, "I just can't do that".

Ex-Acting Pentagon Chief Calls for Milley's Resignation

The remarks came after former acting Secretary of Defence Christopher Miller called the book's allegations a "disgraceful and unprecedented act of insubordination", urging Milley to step down "immediately".

Former US President Donald Trump, for his part, argued that if the reports are confirmed, Milley's alleged actions may be seen as "treason".

The general's spokesperson Dave Butler has tried to defend Milley, insisting in a statement that his contacts with Beijing were consistent with his duties.
A US Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is test-fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California toward a missile range in Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, 4,200 miles away, on February 23, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.09.2021
US Gen. Milley Reassured China Twice in Trump’s Last Days POTUS Wouldn’t Attack, Woodward Book Says
"These conversations remain vital to improving mutual understanding of US national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity, and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict. His [Milley's] 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.
According to the statement, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff "regularly communicates" with defence heads across the world, "including with Russia and China".
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