Apple's new chief executive Tim Cook has held talks with officials in China, the U.S. tech giant said Tuesday, the workshop of its products but where its operations have faced difficulties.

Cook's visit to China, his first since taking over at Apple (IW500/14) after the death of co-founder Steve Jobs in October, reflects the importance attached to the massive Chinese market by the firm, a company spokeswoman said.

But it also comes after Apple's operations in China have faced difficulties, such as recent copyright battles and worker suicides at a major supplier.

Apple spokeswoman Carolyn Wu, speaking from Beijing, confirmed Cook, who is currently in China, had discussions with government officials.

"China is very important to us and we look forward to even greater investments," she said.

She declined to give further details on the nature of the talks or Cook's trip, which comes after recent difficulties for the firm.

Earlier this month, a group of Chinese writers, who accuse Apple's online store of selling pirated copies of their books, said they were seeking $8 million in compensation from the U.S. firm, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

A local computer firm called Proview Technology (Shenzhen) has also filed lawsuits against Apple claiming it owns the Chinese rights for the "iPad" trademark.

Lawyers for the Chinese company said they were seeking to prevent Apple from shipping the iconic tablet computers into and out of China, and are threatening to sue Apple in the United States for $2 billion.

Apple has also had to fend off allegations by labor watchdog groups that Chinese workers employed by key supplier Foxconn of Taiwan were operating in harsh factory conditions at the company's plants in China.

A string of workers have died in apparent suicides at Foxconn plants, with activists blaming the tough conditions.

However, the gadget maker, based in Cupertino, Calif., remains wildly popular in China and its iconic products such as the iPhone and iPad are coveted by wealthy Chinese consumers.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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