Joint chiefs chair satisfied China shares U.S. concerns on North Korea

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BEIJING — Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said today that he is leaving China with assurances that Chinese leaders are as concerned as the United States about threats by North Korea and are working diligently at heading off further provocations.

Chinese officials, however, provided no specifics on how they were conveying that message to Pyongyang, Dempsey acknowledged at a briefing with reporters after a series of meetings with top Chinese military leaders.

“Unlike sometimes the reports you would get that they’re less interested than they probably should be or that we’d want to them to be, I leave here believing that they’re very interested in trying to contribute to stability on the Korean] peninsula,” said Dempsey, who will continue his meetings with military leaders in Japan on Thursday.

The most recent series of threats and messages between the United States and North Korea differs from previous exchanges because it has lasted longer, Dempsey said.

“What that means is that I think the risk of miscalculation is higher, and the chance of escalation is higher,” he said.

Chinese leaders had even less specific comments on the topic of cyberattacks, the other looming issue that dominated this week’s high-level discussions in Beijing.

Dempsey is the latest in a string of top U.S. officials sent in recent weeks with a strong message for China on cyberattacks, driven by a newfound willingness of the United States to confront Beijing as evidence mounts of government-sponsored cyber-intrusions on U.S. companies, including defense contractors.

Dempsey said he told Chinese leaders it was against their strategic and economic interests to not deal with cybersecurity head-on.

“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.”

In recent months, Chinese leaders have agreed to form a working group with U.S. officials to discuss cybersecurity, but have continued to deny involvement in the attacks and depict themselves as one of the biggest victims of intrusions.

At a news conference Monday after talks with Dempsey, a senior Chinese general agreed the issue was serious and described the consequences of a major cyberattack as being “as serious as a nuclear bomb.”

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