Rex Tillerson has been removed from his position as Secretary of State, U.S. President Donald Trump announced via social media on Tuesday, with current Director of the CIA Mike Pompeo nominated to fill the role.
The move comes in the wake of the surprise decision by Trump to agree to a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by May, for which preparations are currently underway.
“Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service!” the President tweeted.
“Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!” he added.
Mr. Pompeo was a member of the House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017, identifying as a Tea Party member of the Republican Party.
As a member of the House, Pompeo served on the intelligence select committee.
Prior to that, he graduated from West Point, Harvard Law, and served as a cavalry officer in the Gulf War.
The decision will likely come as a surprise to many, and follows the news last month that Joseph Yun, former U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy, would retire.
“This confirms what we knew all along: that the President does not think of the Secretary of State and his institution as a vital part of the foreign policy process,” Mintara Oba, a former Korea Desk Officer at the Department of State, told NK News on Tuesday.
“The President hacked him off like a dead limb. This is unfortunate because Tillerson was one of the few people who took a thoughtful and moderate approach to North Korea policy,” he added.
Since his confirmation as CIA Director early last year, Mike Pompeo has overseen an increased agency focus on the Korean peninsula, including the setting up of a designated Korean mission.
“Last year it was remarkable CIA creativity which has now led to our capacity to materially impact the capacity of the American government to interdict shipments into North Korea,” he told the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in January.
Pompeo, if confirmed, will lead the State Department as Trump prepares to become the first sitting U.S. President to meet with a North Korean leader.
In an appearance on Fox News on Sunday, Pompeo spoke about the planned talks, which are set to take place by May.
“Make no mistake about it,” he said. “While these negotiations are going on, there will be no concessions made.”
Both Tillerson and Trump have admitted to disagreements between each other in the past and rumors have circulated since late last year that Pompeo was being considered as a potential replacement for Secretary of State.
President Trump had previously sought to dispell such rumors.
“The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon – FAKE NEWS! He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!” he tweeted in December last year.
Tillerson returned from a state visit to various African nations on Monday and was set to meet with South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha on Wednesday to discuss developments on the peninsula.
The U.S. State Department is yet to respond to NK News’s requests for comment.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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Featured Image: Secretary Tillerson Addresses Reporters After Meeting with FM Kishida in Tokyo by U.S. Embassy Tokyo on 2017-03-16 15:47:23