As one of the participants of a senior military meeting of the U.S. was confirmed with COVID-19, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman and top commanders of the Army, Navy, and Air Force have entered self-quarantine. As COVID-19 has spread in the Pentagon following the White House, concerns about the national security control tower of the U.S. are growing.
According to the Washington Post on Tuesday, all participants of a senior military meeting on Friday morning, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley and several members of the Pentagon's senior leadership, are quarantining after the vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Adm. Charles Ray, tested positive on Monday.
The meeting held in the Pentagon's secure meeting space known as "the tank" was attended by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Milley, as well as key military commanders, including vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten, chief of staff of the Army Gen. James McConville, chief of naval operations Adm. Michael Gilday, and chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force Charles Brown. The Associated Press reported that a minimum of 14 people, including the working-level members who attended the meeting, are subject to self-quarantine. Only two senior leaders – Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps David Berger – did not attend the meeting as they were on a business trip.
The Pentagon seems to be quite shaken by the news. About 47,000 active-duty soldiers and Department of Defense employees have tested positive for COVID-19 so far, but until now there was no case of senior leadership tested positive or quarantining. White House officials, citing national security concerns, told Defense Department officials that they should no longer inform the public or the news media about the coronavirus status of senior Pentagon leaders, but Defense Department officials have denied the request, the New York Times reported.
As North Korea’s provocations are expected around its 75th anniversary of the foundation of the Workers’ Party on Saturday, a concern is raised about how the responses of South Korea and the U.S. will be affected by the recent development. Some predict that China and Russia will also take action.
Former CIA Chief John Brennan said in an interview with National Public Radio that the U.S. should keep an eye on any potential adversary trying to take advantage of the current unstable situation. He also expressed his concerns about the possibility that China might decide to do something in Hong Kong or the South China Sea and Russia might decide to do something in Belarus or another country.