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Robert Pence, the ambassador of the United States to Finland, is listening to the national anthem of the US at the gates of the Presidential Palace on May 24, 2018. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

With his right hand over his heart, dressed in a dark suit under the glaring sun, he closed his eyes and looked serene.

The Guards Band played the “Star-Spangled Banner”—the national anthem of the US.

After such an honorary reception at the gates of the Presidential Palace on Thursday afternoon, the new Ambassador of the United States to Finland, Robert Pence, walked in the palace with other diplomats behind him. He was about to present his credentials to President Sauli Niinistö.

Ambassador Pence, who will turn 50 this summer, started his job on Monday and in an interview with the Finnish media, Pence stressed that he is in Finland to carry out the foreign policy of the US President Donald Trump. “We have a very strong bilateral relationship with Finland. It’s as good as any we have in the world, and I intend to do everything we can to strengthen it, preserve it, enhance it as we move forward,” Pence said.

Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Earlier in an interview with the Yale Daily News, Pence said that he has already started watching Finnish movies and reading Finnish literature. According to Pence, it’s “the least I can do.” He aims to be “reasonably conversant” in the language.

Pence moved to Helsinki with his wife Susan. Pence has a background in real estate business. He is the founder and chairman of the Pence Group, known for developing and managing shopping centers, hotels and office buildings throughout the US.

According to Pence, Finland is an increasingly important place geopolitically because it has an 800-mile border with Russia and has a long history of being the center of political events. Pence said that he is also interested in working with Finland because despite not being in NATO, it is “very much aligned with the West.”

“There is a wonderful opportunity for improving relations [with Finland] now and I’m looking forward to participating in that process,” he said.

Today, Pence met with the Finnish president, and he is already looking forward to meeting another famous Finn: the Olympic gold medalist, skier Iivo Niskanen.

“When I watched it [the race in 50km cross-country skiing in PyeongChang, where Niskanen won the gold medal], I thought that this is what Finnish ‘sisu’ means. I hope to meet Mr. Niskanen very soon,” Pence said to the Finnish reporters.