However, Dempsey, who has wrapped up his visit to China, said Chinese leaders didn't provide specifics on how they were communicating that message to North Korea, The Washington Post reported.
"I leave here believing that they're very interested in trying to contribute to stability on the [Korean] peninsula," said Dempsey whose next stop is Japan to meet with military leaders.
North Korea has engaged in inflammatory rhetoric and provocative actions, including threatening pre-emptive nuclear strikes against South Korea and the United States, restarting an idled nuclear plant and long-range ballistic missile tests. North Korea is under tough sanctions by the U.N. Security Council for its Feb. 12 nuclear test, its third since 2006 in violation of U.N. resolutions.
The Post said Dempsey and Chinese leaders also discussed cyberattacks, the Post said.
"We had a useful discussion on how the challenges of cyber are migrating from theft to disruption and left unaddressed are likely to lead to destruction," Dempsey said. "And the nations of the world who rely most on technology and have the strongest economies will be the most vulnerable."
Dempsey took a strong message for China on cyberattacks, the Post said, demonstrating a willingness by the United States to confront China amid mounting evidence of government-sponsored cyber breaches on U.S. companies, including defense contractors.
On Monday, a senior Chinese general said cybersecurity was a serious issue and described the consequences of a major cyberattack as being "as serious as a nuclear bomb."
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