The top U.S. military officer is trying to reassure China that the United States wants to be a "stabilizing influence" in the Asia-Pacific region.
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey commented Monday at a joint news conference with his Chinese counterpart Fang Fenghui in Beijing.
The Obama administration has been shifting its strategic focus toward Asia-Pacific from the Middle East in recent years, prompting Chinese concern that U.S. allies such as Japan will be emboldened to challenge Beijing in territorial disputes.
General Demspey said the United States probably did not take enough interest in Asia-Pacific during the past decade, as U.S. troops fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said Washington now is "more engaged" in the region to prevent what he said would be a destabilizing "absence" of U.S. activity.
Dempsey said the U.S. military also is committed to building a better and more enduring relationship with China.
People's Liberation Army chief of staff Fang said the Chinese and U.S. militaries need to deepen cooperation and have a new type of partnership.
He responded to U.S. accusations of Chinese military involvement in cyber attacks on American businesses by saying China strongly opposes such activity and is a victim of hacking itself.
General Fang said that if cyber security is not controlled, its impact could be as serious as a nuclear bomb.
The Chinese military chief said Beijing also is concerned about what he called the possibility of North Korea carrying out a fourth nuclear test. He reiterated China's opposition to its ally's nuclear weapons program and called for a return to long-stalled six-party disarmament talks.
North Korea carried out its third nuclear test in February, angering world powers, including China, and leading them to approve a new round of U.N. Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang.
General Dempsey arrived in China on Sunday to begin a five-day visit, his first since taking office in 2011. He is due to meet with other senior Chinese military and political leaders and tour Chinese military sites this week.
An editorial by Chinese state news agency Xinhua praised the visit, saying frequent meetings between senior U.S. and Chinese officials in recent weeks have improved bilateral relations to an "excellent" level.