Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has reportedly ordered a “back channel” message to reassure China that the United States would not seek military action in the days leading up to the 2020 presidential election.
News of Esper’s actions comes when General Mark Milley was accused of “treason” by former President Donald Trump for allegedly saying he would warn China if the United States were to plan a military strike last October.
According to an Axios report, multiple sources indicate that senior Pentagon officials were concerned that China was receiving poor information about a possible surprise attack by the United States.
“Esper directed his political bureau to send a back-channel message to the Chinese to assure them that the US had no intention of engaging in a military confrontation,” writes Axios.
The column interprets the message as follows: “Don’t read too much what you see in Washington.”
Tensions between China and the United States had increased over increased military support for Taiwan, and then National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien warned in October that the American response to any aggression by China would contain “many ambiguities”.
New coverage from @jonathanvswan: Milley wasn’t the only one fearing China was consuming bad information about the possibility of a US surprise attack by Trump.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper ordered a back channel message in October to reassure them. https://t.co/yL080jzoB4
– Zach Basu (@zacharybasu) September 15, 2021
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RELATED: Democrats come to Milley’s defense after reporting he plotted to warn China of a possible military attack
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s secret communication with China
The Axios report suggests that Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s request for “back-channel” communications with China may have been carried out in secret.
“That back-channel communication was handled a few levels under Esper,” said one source. “US officials involved believed that the Chinese took the first message well.”
Axios adds, “It is unclear whether anyone in the Pentagon told President Trump or the White House what they were doing.”
Then Defense Secretary Mark Esper feared that the Chinese were misjudging the situation and that their misjudgment could lead to a conflict no one wanted. https://t.co/WBkdvIcB2E
– Axios (@axios) September 15, 2021
Esper was unceremoniously sacked by tweet just a few days after the election.
“Mark Esper has been fired,” wrote Trump. “I want to thank him for his services.”
The great upheaval was unheard of for a transitional government, and it has been widely speculated that Esper bid farewell to Trump over whether he could use troops to quell the BLM protests in Washington, DC at the time.
Senior Defense Official confirms to me that @axios is covering Esper’s role in calls to China.
“Milley was absolutely not renegade. Esper took the initiative in October, and Esper asked his own political people to channel the message back. Milley’s message followed Esper’s. “
– Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) September 15, 2021
RELATED: Trump: ‘Fool’ General Milley should be charged with high treason if the China story is true
Mark Milley then said he would say China if the US plans a strike
CNN’s political analyst Josh Rogin said he had confirmed the Axios report and a senior defense official said Mark Esper’s actions resulted in an extreme reaction from General Mark Milley.
Milley indicated in a quote from the Washington Post that he was ready to warn China if the United States planned a military strike.
“General Li, you and I have known each other for five years now. If we attack, I’ll call you ahead of time, ”Milley allegedly said. “It won’t be a surprise.”
Li is General Li Zuocheng, Milley’s senior counterpart in China.
Rogin’s source says Esper orchestrated the series of events that turned senior military officials into allies of the Chinese.
“Milley was absolutely not renegade. Esper took the initiative to do this in October, ”an official told Rogin. “Esper asked its own political people to channel the message back. Milley’s message followed Esper’s. “
I am told this is not true. The video teleconferences were attended by 15 people, including a State Department representative, and the readings and notes from Milley’s two conversations with his Chinese counterpart were shared with the IC and Interagency. https://t.co/sGRvaKgLfS
– Jennifer Griffin (@JenGriffinFNC) September 15, 2021
Fox News reporter Jennifer Griffin points out that Milley’s call was no secret and at least 15 other people were involved.
The current White House has defended Milley’s actions taken prior to President Biden’s inauguration or even known to have been victorious in the 2020 elections.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki described the story of the China talks as little more than “anonymous unconfirmed reports of limited context talks.”
Senator Marco Rubio said Milley’s actions set “a dangerous precedent” that “threatens to destroy the long-standing principle of civilian control of our nation’s military.”
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