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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Leon J. LaPorte hosted an honor guard ceremony Wednesday for Alexander Vershbow, U.S. ambassador to South Korea.

Vershbow was sworn in to the position on Oct. 14 and took up duties on Oct. 17.

Wednesday’s ceremony, originally scheduled for Knight Field, was moved into Collier Field House because the temperature has hovered in the low 20s this week.

During opening remarks, LaPorte welcomed the “knowledgeable and capable statesman.”

LaPorte said he’d invited Vershbow to visit and see firsthand the troops and their dedication to the alliance between South Korea and America, noting that the ambassador already has visited the Joint Security Area on the Demilitarized Zone, Camp Humphreys and Osan Air Base.

Vershbow is “a friend to the military,” LaPorte said.

The ambassador began his remarks by paying tribute to LaPorte, who will relinquish command and retire on Feb. 1.

“The military alliance has undergone significant changes and faced complex challenges in that time period and he has managed all of the changes and challenges superbly, displaying true leadership,” Vershbow said. “I know the changes the general has put in place have greatly strengthened our alliance with the Republic of Korea.”

Vershbow said that “due to the dynamic changes related to the restructuring of our military alliance with the Republic of Korea, defense issues are routinely some of the most significant and complex issues we face at the embassy.”

And there are more changes to come, the ambassador said.

“We will relocate several military bases, including Yongsan Garrison, away from population centers and shift more responsibility to the ROK’s armed forces,” he said. “We will spend $11 billion to ensure our forces in the region are state of the art and that our alliance is second to none.”

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