'New American embassy a signal to the world of strong UK-US relationship'

The new US embassy in London is a "signal to the world" that the relationship between the UK and the United States is strong and going to grow, the American Ambassador has said.

Woody Johnson expressed his desire to have Donald Trump at the opening of the new headquarters on London's South Bank in January, but emphasised that a date had not yet been set for the president's visit to Britain.

Mr Trump had tasked him with strengthening the special bond between the two countries, he said, adding that the president recognised the UK was "the gateway to Europe".

He said: "President Trump wants to work more closely than ever with the UK, and it will make both of our countries more prosperous and secure.

"So the new embassy is a signal to the world that this special relationship that we have is stronger and is going to grow and get better.

"He mentioned that to me himself ... He said 'I want you to make it stronger', and I intend to do that if I can."

He added: "We are looking forward to welcoming the president when he comes over here. I think he will be very impressed with this building and the people who occupy it."

Flanked by the American and UK flags, Mr Johnson spoke eloquently about the embassy's attachment to the former site, which he said had been home to the US in some form for 200 years.

For more than half a century, the embassy has been located in the Grade II-listed London Chancery Building in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair.

But the diplomatic mission is moving across the River Thames to the new 12-storey cube-shaped building in Vauxhall, and will formally open on January 16.

Asked if he was worried that anti-Trump demonstrations might dampen the optimism he hoped the building represented, should the president visit, Mr Johnson said: "No".

He added: "The great thing about being in London, and the great thing about being in the US, is the ability to express your point of view.

"And so that's something that we live with every day and it's an important part of who we are."

Funded entirely from sale of US Government property in London, the construction project is estimated to have cost approximately one billion US dollars.

The crystalline cube structure, which won the 2013 New London Architecture Award, was designed to reflect the ideals of American democracy - transparency, openness and equality.

Panoramic views of the Thames can be enjoyed through gold-starred floor-to-ceiling windows, while a glimpse of Westminster provides a reassuring nod that the capital's political heart is just a stone's throw away.

Interior gardens representing different American states wind around the stairs linking each floor, while a semi-circular pond fronts the building.

The embassy expects to welcome 1,000 visitors a day and will employ 800 staff at the building, which was designed by American architects KieranTimberlake.