Gen. Dempsey: China takes no ownership of cyber attack on U.S.

Bob Woodruff, Martha Raddatz, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps
Power Players
Gen. Dempsey: China takes no ownership of cyber attack on U.S.

On the Radar

The Pentagon officially blamed China of cyber attacks against the United States in a new report, but America's top military official Gen. Martin Dempsey told ABC’s Bob Woodruff in an exclusive interview during his recent trip to Beijing that China is not claiming responsibility for such attacks.

"Of course, they admit there is criminal activity in cyber, they take no ownership for it," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in an interview with On the Radar. "I was very candid about our concerns."

Gen. Dempsey, who met with top Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping and the military leader Gen. Fan Changlong during his three-day-long tour, warned that cyber warfare is a serious concern in the U.S. relationship with China.

"There are state and non-state actors and individuals acting that I think we need to understand what we are each doing, and we have to also understand where this could go, where the future could take us in cyber, and we need to take that very seriously," Dempsey said.

While Dempsey says it is impossible to imagine that there will ever be a traditional military conflict between the two countries, emphasizing that China and the U.S. are working toward an increasingly positive relationship, he qualified that there is a need for improved “rules of behavior” to prevent against a “miscalculation” leading to a military standoff in the future.

Dempsey said Chinese leaders expressed more concern about the United States' long-term missile defense capabilities than the immediate threat posed by North Korea.

“He [Gen. Fan] was raising the possibility that our long term ballistic defense capability could be more concerning to them than the near-term threat posed by Kim Jung Un,” Dempsey said of his meeting with the vice chair of China's Central Military Commission.

But, on the topic of North Korean leader Jim Jong Un, Dempsey said Chinese leaders are united in their concern about North Korea's leadership and are mutually interested in working toward a peaceful Korean Peninsula.

When asked how the United States would respond if North Korea were to successfully launch a missile, Dempsey stopped short of providing specifics.

“I will only say that unambiguously that we do have the capability to intercept it and would do so if it threatened any of our people or facilities,” Dempsey said.

For more of the interview with Gen. Dempsey, including his thoughts about the domestic challenges facing China, check out this episode of On the Radar.

ABC's Karson Yiu and Gamay Palacios contributed to this episode.