John Kerry
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry shakes hands with China's Foreign minister Wang before a meeting at the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing on April 13, 2013 REUTERS

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with China’s top leaders on Saturday to urge them to pressure North Korea to scale back its bellicose rhetoric.

Kerry held discussions in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and State Councilor Yang Jiechi, China's top diplomat who outranks Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Ahead of his first trip to Beijing as secretary of state, Kerry said that the U.S. and China's denuclearization policies had to have “teeth.”

On Friday, during a visit to Seoul, Kerry said the U.S. would protect itself and its allies, and that talks in Beijing would aim to “lay out a path that will defuse this tension.”

“I think it's clear to everybody in the world that no country in the world has as close a relationship or as significant an impact on [North Korea] than China,” he said, according to the BBC.

He said China, like the U.S., wanted denuclearization, and added, “If that's your policy, you've got to put some teeth into it.”

The U.S. believes Beijing could take several specific steps to pressure Pyongyang, including cutting off support for North Korea's weapons program.

"There is no group of leaders on the face of the planet who have more capacity to make a difference in this than the Chinese, and everybody knows it, including, I believe, them," Kerry said in Seoul, as Reuters reported.

"They want to see us try to reach an amicable resolution to this," he said. "But you have to begin with a reality, and the reality is that if your policy is denuclearization -- and it is theirs as it is ours as it is everybody's except the North's at this moment."

In his first meeting with Kerry before reporters, China's foreign minister Wang said the trip had "come at a critical moment," without referring to North Korean threats.

“Obviously there are enormously challenging issues in front of us and I look forward to having that conversation with you today to do exactly what you said -- lift this conversation up, broaden it, set a road map, define for both of us what the model relationship [should] be and how two great powers, China and the United States, can work effectively to solve problems,” Kerry told Wang.

Pyongyang's recent threats and provocations have fueled rumors that it might launch a missile -- possibly on April 15, the 101st birthday of the nation's founding leader, Kim Il Sung.