BEIJING - Japan pressed China to improve its climate for foreign businesses during talks Saturday between the world's number two and three economies that also touched on the issue of North Korean disarmament.
Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada led a delegation to Beijing for talks with a Chinese side led by Vice Premier Wang Qishan in which both urged even greater cooperation between their two increasingly inter-connected economies.
"The economies of both countries highly rely on each other," Wang told the Japanese delegation, later saying after the third Japan-China High-level Economic Dialogue that the talks were "fruitful."
Behind the calls for cooperation, however, Japan became the latest of China's trading partners to complain about the country's business environment.
Japanese firms have borne the brunt of recurring labour disputes at foreign-established factories in China this year, and officials said Okada pressed Beijing for more "transparent" labour policies, without elaborating.
"The Japanese side asked China to improve the business environment and exchanged views in this regard," Okada said after the meeting.
A Japanese government spokesman later said China attributed the labour unrest to a "natural" push for better wages.
"Japan is not satisfied with this," said the spokesman, Satoru Satoh.
China's economy outpaced Japan in the second quarter in nominal terms. The two countries are numbers two and three behind only the United States.
China has heard a chorus of complaints by European and US businesses and officials over perceived unfair policies and market restrictions hurting foreign enterprises.
Okada told his counterpart Yang Jiechi that Tokyo was against an early restart of six-nation talks hosted by China on dismantling North Korea's nuclear programmes, Satoh said.
Tokyo wants more assurances of sincerity by Pyongyang to pursue denuclearisation, especially in the climate of distrust following the sinking of a South Korean warship in March which killed 46 sailors.
Washington and Seoul have said the ship was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, which Pyongyang denies.
The unpredictable North stormed out of the six-nation talks last year. The talks include China, the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia.
The two sides also discussed their competing territorial claims in the East China Sea, Satoh said, but he indicated no headway was made.
Japan also complained to China about its decision to restrict exports of rare earth minerals essential for making components for computers, mobile phones and low-carbon emission autos, in which Japan has emerged as a pioneer.
Prices have spiked since China, which accounts for 97 percent of global rare metals production, announced it would slash its export ceiling by about 70 percent for the second half of this year.
Satoh indicated China refused to budge.
The Japanese delegation to the closed-door, one-day talks, which also included Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Trade Minister Masayuki Naoshima, was scheduled to make a courtesy call on Premier Wen Jiabao on Sunday.
Chinese representatives include Finance Minister Xie Xuren and Commerce Minister Chen Deming.