His Japanese counterpart, Nobutaka Machimura, had gone to Beijing seeking an apology, but Mr Li said the real issue was Japan’s wartime atrocities.
Protests have continued in Chinese cities – with 10,000 people marching in Shenzhen, in the south.
Japan has approved schoolbooks which critics say whitewash its wartime past.
The Chinese are also protesting against Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
“The Chinese government has never done anything for which it has to apologise to the Japanese people,” Mr Li said during talks with Mr Machimura.