China's government on Thursday lamented a World Trade Organization ruling that found its caps on exports of rare-earth elements, tungsten and molybdenum were unjustified.

"China will keep enhancing its management of resource products under the WTO rules to preserve fair competition," an unnamed trade ministry official told the official Xinhua news agency.

The WTO ruled Wednesday that restrictions on the exports of those raw materials, which are used to make high-tech products and sophisticated weapons, violate global trade rules.

China, which in the case of rare-earth elements is a quasi-monopoly supplier, has 60 days to appeal the decision.

"The dispute has not come to an end. We are evaluating the panel report to decide whether to appeal to the WTO appellate body. If the final ruling upholds the panel report, we will remove the restrictions," the trade ministry's director for treaties and law, Yang Guohua, said.

The Geneva-based organization began investigating China's rare-earth caps in 2012 at the request of the United States, the European Union, Japan and Canada, which argued the Asian giant was abusing its advantageous market position and wielding it as a trade and even political weapon.

In 2010, for example, China reduced its rare-earth exports to Japan in retaliation for the interception of a Chinese fishing boat and arrest of its captain near disputed islands in the East China Sea.

China insists the caps are imposed for environmental - as opposed to economic or political - reasons, saying extraction of rare-earth metals is highly polluting.

Indeed, China accounts for 90 percent of global output of rare earths in part because countries like India, Brazil and the United States have not developed their large reserves of those metals due concerns over the impact of production on soil or because of lack of technology.

"The government of China, which is facing severe resource and environmental pressure, has boosted its controls on products that are highly polluting or which consume large quantities of energy, thus contributing to the sustainable development of the planet," a trade ministry official told Xinhua. EFE