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Report: Fmr. SECDEF Esper ordered secret message to China before Milley’s secret call

Then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speaks with President Donald Trump at a White House coronavirus briefing (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Sipa USA/TNS)
September 15, 2021

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper reportedly ordered the October back-channel message to China that was later reiterated by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley in a phone call that subverted then-President Donald Trump, three sources familiar with the situation told Axios on Wednesday.

According to the outlet, Sec. Esper was concerned China’s misinterpretation of “bad intelligence” could lead to violent international conflict.

“I think they [the Chinese] were getting bad intelligence…a combination of ‘wag the dog’ conspiracy thinking and bad intel from bad sources,” one of the sources said.

As a result, Esper ordered his policy office to send a secret message to Chinese officials to reassure the communist nation that the United States did not intend to seek a military confrontation.

“Don’t over-read what you’re seeing in Washington; we have no intention to attack; and let’s keep lines of communication open,” the message reportedly stated.  

The backchannel communication was executed several levels below Esper, one of the sources told Axios. After the initial communication, Milley followed up with a direct call to one of China’s top generals to reiterate Esper’s message, two of the sources confirmed.  

Around the same time, Esper was made aware of a long-planned deployment to Asia that was moved up several weeks earlier than initially scheduled in an effort to work with COVID-19 protocols.

Apparently seeking to ease some of the pressure in the region, Sec. Esper delayed the Asian exercise until after the election, telling colleagues that the last thing China needed at the time was more planes.

Milley’s secret phone calls with China were first revealed earlier this week through excerpts of a forthcoming book entitled “Peril” by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. One of Milley’s phone calls to China took place on Oct. 30, 2020, and the second on Jan. 8, 2021.

“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Milley told the People’s Liberation Army general. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”

“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,” Milley added. “It’s not going to be a surprise.”

On Tuesday, Former President Donald Trump said that “Dumbass” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley should be “tried for TREASON” if the reports are true that Milley promised to warn China of an impending attack by the United States.