A Chinese man pleaded guilty yesterday to sickening at least 10 Japanese people five years ago by poisoning dumplings that were later exported to Japan - an incident that sparked a diplomatic row between the countries.
Lu Yueting, 39, a former employee of the Hebei Tianyang Food Factory, apologised for his actions during the trial in the people's intermediate court in Shijiazhuang, Hebei, Xinhua reported.
The case of pesticide-laced dumplings not only dealt a blow to foreigners' confidence in Chinese exports - it came amid a series of food-safety scares - it also stoked tensions between Beijing and Tokyo.
Lu was accused of using a needle to inject the insecticide methamidophos into between six and nine boxes of frozen dumplings between October and December 2007.
Some of the dumplings went to Japan and sickened 10 people, including a five-year-old girl who fell seriously ill. Other tainted dumplings were sold in Chengde , Hebei, and sickened at least four people.
Shi Yinhong , an international relations expert at Renmin University in Beijing, said that the resolution of the case could provide a welcome distraction from the countries' ongoing territorial disputes.
"It would help ease the tension for the two sides to talk about topics other than the Diaoyu islands," Shi said.
Lu was arrested and charged in connection with the poisoning in 2010. Prosecutors reportedly said in court that he was upset with what he considered a low salary and inadequate welfare, and he wanted to cause chaos to bring attention to the factory.
Yesterday, Lu said he did not think his actions would have such a large impact. Lu faces between 10 years to life imprisonment, or even the death penalty.
Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, told reporters yesterday that his country wanted a thorough investigation into the incident, and he lamented that it took three years for the trial to start after Lu's arrest, Kyodo News reported.
"The trial was delayed for too long," Suga said.
Meanwhile, Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki met in Beijing with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a two-day visit amid strained relations over the Diaoyus-Senkakus territorial dispute.
"Both sides had candid discussions about the Sino-Japanese relationship," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. "China clearly expressed its position on problems facing the relationship between the two nations. The two sides will continue to communicate through various levels and channels."