On the afternoon of February 18 local time, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping arrived in Shannon in Ireland's Midwest, kicking off his official visit to the country. Xi made the visit as guest of Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.
At about 4:30 p.m., Xi's charter flight landed at the Shannon Airport. Chinese Ambassador to Ireland Luo Linquan and senior Irish officials boarded the flight to welcome Xi.
Xi stepped off the flight and shook hands and exchanged greetings with Irish Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Gilmore, Irish Ambassador to China Declan Kelleher and other Irish officials who were waiting in front of the ladder. Irish and Chinese young women presented flowers to Xi Jinping.
In a written speech delivered at the airport upon his arrival, Xi said he was glad to pay an official visit to Ireland known as "Emerald Isle" at the invitation of Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. "The main purpose of my visit is to deepen the traditional friendship between our two peoples and take bilateral relations and practical cooperation forward," Xi said.
"Ireland has rich history and culture as well as amazing natural beauty. It is a success story of moving, in a short period of time, from an agro-pastoral economy to a knowledge economy," Xi said, adding that Ireland plays an active role in the European Union and international affairs. Over the past 33 years since China and Ireland established diplomatic relations, Xi said, China-Ireland ties have progressed smoothly on the basis of mutual respect and equality, setting an example of friendly co-existence between countries different in size, social system and cultural traditions. "China values its relations with Ireland and hopes to consolidate our traditional friendship, expand exchanges and cooperation in all fields and take our bilateral relations to a new level," he said.
Xi said he is looking forward to meeting Irish President Michael Higgins, holding talks with Prime Minister Kenny, and conferring with Speaker Barrett of the House of Representatives, Speaker Burke of the Senate and other leaders of Ireland. Xi will also engage broadly with people from all walks of life in Ireland, exchanging in-depth views on furthering bilateral ties. Xi believed that under the joint efforts of both sides, the visit will be a great success.
Ireland is the second leg of Xi's ongoing three-nation tour. He came here after concluding his visit to the United States. He will also visit Turkey.