Premier says visit 'first step in a long journey' Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday said his landmark trip to Japan - which he called 'the most important assignment since taking office' - was a success because it had set the Sino-Japanese relationship on the right path. He returned to Beijing last night after visiting the ancient Japanese capital Kyoto and modern metropolis Osaka. His 21/2-day visit, during which Mr Wen delivered a historic speech to Japan's parliament, was well received in the country and lauded by politicians and public alike. Reviewing his visit, the premier said the biggest gain from the visit to Japan was that he sensed a strong desire among the governments and people of the two nations to mend their strained relations, which he said had a bearing on the future of Asia. 'We have made the first step in a long journey. China and Japan will have frictions and problems in future again, but the most important thing is that we have reached a consensus on how to deal with these problems,' he told representatives of Chinese nationals in Japan, embassy officials and Chinese arts performers. He described his meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Japanese lawmakers as 'frank, sincere, serious and practical'. 'I have achieved my goal. I used every opportunity available [to improve the bilateral ties]. In yesterday [Thursday] alone, I have attended 16 events. The Sino-Japanese relationship is now heading towards a healthy direction,' he told Hong Kong reporters before leaving Tokyo. The highlight of his trip was the historic speech at the parliament. Mr Wen revealed that he had started preparing for the speech at the Lunar New Year. 'This visit is the most important task since I took office. I did a lot of preparation. Every sentence is written by myself and I did all the research work myself,' he said. 'Why? Because I feel our nation's developments have reached a critical moment. We need to have a peaceful and conducive international environment. A good Sino-Japanese relationship would bring benefits to people in both countries,' he said. Mr Wen said he made a phone call to his mother, who is over 90, after delivering the speech to parliament, the Diet. 'My mother watched the live coverage. She experienced the war and had many memories about it. She told me I did a great job and I felt so relieved,' he said. Mr Wen said he had used the visit to demonstrate China's sincerity, stance and principles on developing bilateral ties. The two sides had agreed to establish a strategic relationship and had made concrete plans to achieve that goal. 'Both sides have talked about the issues they want to talk [about] ... The first step is always the most difficult one but we have made it. 'It is good news for Asia and good news for the world as well,' he said. Sino-Japanese relations have suffered serious setbacks over the past few years despite their growing economic interdependence. The two Asian giants have bickered over a host of issues, ranging from wartime history, to territory disputes and energy issues. Before arriving in Japan, Mr Wen pledged that he would make his visit an 'ice-melting' one.