China's top diplomat said Thursday he wants to "solve various problems" with Japan in a meeting that could set the stage for rare high-level talks between the two countries early next month.

"To improve China-Japan relations, I would like to have heart-to-heart discussions with you," State Councilor Yang Jiechi told a key foreign-policy adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the outset of a meeting in Beijing.

Yang, who outranks the foreign minister, and the adviser, Shotaro Yachi, the secretariat head of Japan's National Security Council, played a pivotal role in paving the way for the first meeting between Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2014.