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Christopher Hill, U.S. ambassador to South Korea, and Gen. Leon LaPorte, U.S. Forces Korea commander, at Monday's ceremony.
Christopher Hill, U.S. ambassador to South Korea, and Gen. Leon LaPorte, U.S. Forces Korea commander, at Monday's ceremony. (Joseph Giordono / S&S)
Christopher Hill, U.S. ambassador to South Korea, and Gen. Leon LaPorte, U.S. Forces Korea commander, at Monday's ceremony.
Christopher Hill, U.S. ambassador to South Korea, and Gen. Leon LaPorte, U.S. Forces Korea commander, at Monday's ceremony. (Joseph Giordono / S&S)
Members of the United Nations Command honor guard pass in review during a Monday ceremony for new U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Christopher Hill.
Members of the United Nations Command honor guard pass in review during a Monday ceremony for new U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Christopher Hill. (Joseph Giordono / S&S)

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — U.S. Forces Korea gave new U.S. ambassador to South Korea Christopher Hill a resounding welcome Monday, including a cannon salute and a colorful military display.

Promising to complete a “mission of change at a moment of challenge,” Hill said he was humbled by the history of the U.S.-South Korea alliance, acknowledging he assumes the diplomatic lead at a crucial time.

North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and the U.S. military’s plans for transforming its presence in South Korea top the agenda, Hill said. He said his priorities include finding a peaceful solution to the North Korea crisis; strengthening regional relationships and moving forward with South Korea to meet global challenges — such as the U.S. request for 3,500 South Korean combat troops in Iraq.

“This alliance has been tested and tempered and is today undergoing transformational changes that will strengthen it for the future,” Hill said.

Monday’s ceremony, which took place under skies just clearing from a weekend of rain, began with a 19-gun salute by the 2nd Infantry Division’s salute battery. Hill and U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Leon LaPorte, accompanied by the U.N. Command Honor Guard commander, performed a brisk walk-by inspection of the troops.

LaPorte hailed the ambassador as an “extraordinary representative, a seasoned diplomat and a skilled envoy.”

It is not Hill’s first diplomatic post in South Korea. He served in the embassy’s economics section in the mid-1980’s. In the early ’90s, Hill was on the teams dealing with Bosnia and Kosovo; his most recent post was as ambassador to Poland.

Hill, LaPorte said, is “the right man at the right time for this crucial assignment.”

And looking to a hypothetical day in the future, Hill said he hoped to sit with LaPorte in their shared home state of Rhode Island, sipping cold lemonade and reminiscing about their time together in South Korea.

“It is for both us the greatest of opportunities and highest of honors,” Hill said, “to serve with our Korean friends.”

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