A senior Chinese official expressed sympathy Thursday to Japanese people who fell ill by eating frozen food made in China and tried to calm fears with a pledge that Beijing was investigating.
In a speech delivered in fluent Japanese on a visit to Tokyo, State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan said food safety was a global concern.
"I offer my sincere sympathy to the victims of this incident," Tang said in the address, delivered hours before he was to meet Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.
He added that he hoped for a swift investigation into the case through cooperation between Japan and China.
"The Chinese government is immensely interested in this incident and attaches great importance to it," he said.
"I hope this will be resolved as soon as possible through close cooperation between China and Japan," he said.
Tang later held talks with Fukuda for an hour, in which he touched upon the safety scare.
"With regard to the dumpling incident, we discussed taking appropriate steps through mutual cooperation between China and Japan," he told reporters after the meeting.
Fukuda said the two nations must maintain good communication to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident, according to a Japanese government statement on the meeting.
Tang also said China wants to create a food safety monitoring mechanism with Japan, the statement said.
Meanwhile, the two agreed that it was important to resolve a long-running impasse on disputed gas fields in the East China Sea, the statement added.
The former Chinese foreign minister arrived in Japan Wednesday for a five-day trip aimed at laying the groundwork for a landmark visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao, which is expected around April.
Asia's two largest economies are trying to mend relations long strained by wartime history and territorial disputes. Fukuda, a longtime advocate of friendly ties with China, visited Beijing in December.
"During your meetings with Chinese leaders, you said there is only one way of continuing to strengthen our friendship and cooperation. This message has resonated inside China," Tang said as he started the meeting with Fukuda.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao made a visit to Japan last year filled with friendly gestures such as mingling with people in a park and playing a game of baseball, the country's national pastime.
But Tang, seen as a Japan expert, comes amid a different mood after 10 people suffered pesticide poisoning from eating Chinese-made frozen dumplings.
One of them, a five-year-old girl, fell temporarily unconscious and required a month of hospital care after eating a dumpling that was laced with a pesticide not widely available in Japan.
The report led thousands of Japanese people to complain about feeling ill after eating dumplings from China.
Food distributors and importers recalled their Chinese-made food products after saying they also contained toxic pesticides.
Senior police officials from the two nations began a meeting Thursday over the issue in Tokyo. China has urged Japan not to rush to conclusions.
"We came here to exchange information and cooperate with the Japanese authorities so we can have an early resolution of this incident," Yu Xinmin, who is leading the Chinese team of investigators, told public broadcaster NHK.
Hiroto Yoshimura, head of the National Police Agency, separately told reporters that the pesticide in the dumplings were found inside the packages sealed in China.
Japanese and Chinese diplomats also plan to hold high-level talks in Beijing on Friday.
The two sides will likely discuss the dumpling row along with the disputed gas fields in the East China Sea, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said.
The two countries hope to settle the row over the lucrative gas fields in time for Hu's visit.