The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sunday called on China to pressure its longtime ally, North Korea, to not carry out any more provocative actions, Agence France-Presse reported.
"North Korea and the leadership of North Korea is only predictable in one sense, and that is -- if you base it historically -- they will continue to provocate," Adm. Michael Mullen said to journalists in Beijing. "The provocations I think now are potentially more dangerous than they have been in the past."
In the last few years, North Korea has conducted its second nuclear test blast, carried out a number of missile trial launches, unveiled a uranium enrichment program, and been accused of launching two attacks that killed 50 South Koreans.
As North Korea's leading international defender and chief economic benefactor, China is viewed as having the most influence over Pyongyang's actions. Beijing also hosts the moribund six-nation talks on North Korean denuclearization, last held in December 2008.
"All of us are focused on a stable outcome here of what is increasingly a difficult challenge with respect to the leadership in North Korea and what it might do," Mullen said.
Pyongyang is widely perceived to be preparing for a change of power from current leader Kim Jong Il to his youngest son, Kim Jong Un. Analysts see heightened chances for another unprovoked attack by the North as part of efforts to boost the younger Kim's standing with the powerful North Korean military establishment.
"The Chinese leadership, they have a strong relationship with the leadership in Pyongyang and they exercise that routinely... continuing to do that as they have done in the past is really important," Mullen said.
It has been four years since a U.S. joint chiefs head visited China. Washington and Beijing resumed high-level military contact in early 2011 after a yearlong freeze instigated by China as punishment for a large U.S. weapons sale to Taiwan.
Mullen said he would use his visit to China to discuss North Korea and other matters with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Chen Bingde. Chen made his own trip to the United States in May, The New York Times reported.
President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao held a high-profile summit in Washington early in the year.
Mullen's trip falls amid heightened stress between the two nations' armed forces over China's assertion of authority over nearly the entire South China Sea.
Washington is also wary of Beijing's drastically increased military spending, which could affect the U.S. ability to project force in the Pacific. One such focus of that concern is a Soviet aircraft carrier purchased by China from Ukraine in 1998, the Associated Press reported.
The massive vessel came without armaments or engines and is not thought to have ever sailed by its own power. It will be years before the ship and its crew could be ready for operations, according to the AP.
In their meeting, Chen said he and the U.S. admiral talked about China's work on the Dongfeng 21D missile, which is reported to have the ability to strike U.S. naval ships traveling in the region.
Chen said to journalists that the advanced missile was "not operational yet" and was developed solely for protective uses.