China and Japan are holding their first high-level security talks in four years, following recent tensions over territorial and historical issues.
The meeting in Tokyo among officials comes ahead of trilateral talks with South Korea on Saturday.
The last round of talks was in 2011, before ties worsened over a row over islands in the East China Sea.
China also claims Japan has failed to adequately atone for aggression in World War Two.
But the BBC’s Celia Hatton in Beijing says relations are slowly improving and at the top of the meeting’s agenda is the establishment of a maritime communication hotline.
There have been fears that a clash – accidental or otherwise – between Chinese and Japanese paramilitary vessels patrolling waters around the disputed islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, could trigger a conflict.
Japan’s deputy foreign minister told reporters that both sides hoped to “especially discuss intentions and thoughts behind each other’s defence policy.”
His counterpart, China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao, said that China hoped that the two countries “would develop a mind to face history squarely and look into the future”.
Thursday’s meeting is seen as a continuation of work to improve ties in recent months.
In November, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Beijing, where world media captured the two leaders frostily shaking hands.
The two sides agreed then to set up a maritime crisis mechanism.
Besides territorial concerns, China has also taken issue with Japan’s defence policy changes under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Japan has defended its reinterpretation of its pacifist constitution to allow it to use force to defend allies under attack, which it calls “collective self-defence”. China in turn has previously accused Japan of “remilitarising”.
China, along with South Korea, has also accused Japan of whitewashing wartime atrocities in schoolbooks and raised objections when ministers, including Mr Abe, visited the controversial Yasukuni shrine which honours Japan’s war dead as well as war criminals.