Joe Biden has confirmed he plans to visit Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement.
He was told by Rishi Sunak “we’d love to have you” when the pair held a face-to-face bilateral meeting on the fringes of the Aukus summit.
“It’s my intention to go to Northern Ireland and the Republic,” Biden said, after sharing the stage with Sunak and the Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, to champion the three countries’ defence pact.
The UK prime minister also said he had accepted an invitation from Biden to visit him in Washington DC in June. Sunak said: “It’s great that we’re going to see each other a lot over the next few months.”
On the invitation on the anniversary of the Good Friday agreement peace deal, Sunak told Biden, who has Irish heritage: “I know it’s something very special and personal to you.” He voiced hopes he could make it to mark an important event.
“Twenty-five years, it seems like yesterday,” said the US president. He also sought to show off his rapport with Sunak – joking that the former green card holder was “a Stanford man and still has a home here in California”.
After his appearance with Sunak and Albanese, Biden said “no” when asked if he was worried China would see the move to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines as aggression. When pushed on whether he would talk to the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, soon, he said “yes”.
A trip to Belfast by Biden was viewed as a high prize by the UK government for the breakthrough over the Northern Ireland protocol, which prompted the Democratic Unionist party to pull out of power-sharing last year.
However, no executive has been formed since the deal clinched with the EU by Sunak in his Windsor framework, meaning questions remained about whether Biden would actually come.
In recent days, the prospect looked more likely – with the White House said to have dispatched teams to carry out assessments ahead of a potential visit.
Sunak also boosted hopes by declaring he was planning to formally invite Biden while on the plane travelling to meet him in San Diego, California.
A host of other politicians – including Bill and Hillary Clinton – are expected in Belfast for a large event on 17-19 April organised by Queen’s University.
The anniversary falls on 10 April, and marks 25 years since the day an agreement was reached by the former British and Irish prime ministers, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, as well as the former US senator George Mitchell.
Some world leaders will congregate in London the following month to mark the coronation of King Charles. Sunak refused to be drawn on whether Biden would be on the invitation list, simply saying: “There’s lots of great things to celebrate.”
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