Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to Tokyo on Saturday after making the first official trip to China by a Japanese leader in nearly seven years.

During his three-day visit to Beijing, Abe agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang to strengthen economic and security cooperation and build new relations based on the principle of shifting "from competition to collaboration" after years of tensions over territorial and wartime issues.

Since returning to power in late 2012, Abe had visited China twice to attend multilateral economic meetings, but the latest trip was the first in which he formally and primarily discussed bilateral issues.

Prior to the trip, Abe had bilateral meetings seven times with Xi, but they took place on the sidelines of international or regional meetings in China and other countries.

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Putting aside differences over the Japan-controlled, China-claimed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and other thorny issues, Abe and Xi this time focused on establishing a "new era" of relations as this year marks the 40th anniversary of the two counties' peace and friendship treaty.

Abe asked Xi to reciprocate with a visit to Japan, and the Chinese president responded that he will "seriously" consider doing so next year.

In a speech in Tokyo on Saturday, Japan's top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the results of Abe's meetings with Xi and Li represent improved ties between the two countries and the developments are fitting for the 40th anniversary of the treaty.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, who heads the Komeito party, the junior coalition partner of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, echoed the view, telling reporters in Hiroshima that the meetings should be highly praised "as the first step of reciprocal visits of the leaders."

Interest in the visit was not limited to Japan, with many Chinese newspapers treating Abe's trip as the biggest story on the front pages of their Saturday editions.