BEIJING (Kyodo) China executed convicted Japanese drug-smuggler Mitsunobu Akano on Tuesday, a move that could spark new friction in otherwise improving bilateral relations.

Akano, 65, was executed around 9:30 a.m. at a facility in Dalian, Liaoning Province, Japanese diplomats said, the first time China has executed a Japanese national since the two countries normalized diplomatic relations in 1972.

"The courts had clear and irrefutable evidence of drug-smuggling, and the death sentence was handed down and carried out in line with Chinese law," the official news agency Xinhua quoted the Supreme People's Court as saying.