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Tillerson ouster rumors denied

China Daily | Updated: 2017-12-02 06:54

US media speculation heats up over US secretary of state's status

WASHINGTON - The White House on Thursday rejected widespread reports about a plan initiated by the Trump administration to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, saying there will be no personnel changes.

"There are no personnel announcements at this time. Secretary Tillerson continues to lead the State Department," said a statement from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Sanders' remarks came after multiple major US news outlets reported earlier that the White House is planning to remove the current head of the State Department.

Tillerson's relationship with President Donald Trump "has been strained" and perhaps he will be replaced "within the next several weeks", reported The New York Times, citing senior administration officials.

Incumbent CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a former three-term Congressman and a sturdy supporter of Trump, is said to be Tillerson's successor.

Tillerson ouster rumors denied

Trump, when asked if he wanted Tillerson to stay on the job on Thursday morning, made a simple reply.

"Rex is here," he said, seemingly dodging the question.

It was not the first time the Trump-Tillerson relationship has been scrutinized.

In October, when asked if he still had confidence in Tillerson, Trump replied: "Yes."

At Thursday's daily media briefing, Sanders, further rebutting the reports, said when Trump loses confidence in someone, "they will no longer serve in the capacity that they're in".

Trump and Tillerson are "going to work together to close out what we've seen to be an incredible year", Sanders said.

The US State Department also ridiculed the reports on Thursday.

White House chief of staff John Kelly had called the department, saying "those reports are not true", said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.

However, Nauert also hinted that Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobile, a US multinational oil and gas corporation, seemed to feel uncomfortable about Washington which "can be a tough game of politics".

"He (Tillerson) doesn't always understand and accept exactly how Washington works with anonymous sources, things of that nature. That's not who he is, that's not the world that he comes from," said the spokesperson.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Tillerson's closest ally in the administration, brushed off the report. "There's nothing to it," he said in response to a reporter's query.

Tillerson, 65, from Texas, was a civil engineer who joined the energy company in 1975 and rose to serve as CEO from 2006-16.

Months after he was sworn in as state secretary, Tillerson launched a "redesign" project, which, along with staff cutting and budget trimming, drew severe criticism from bipartisan lawmakers who worried those steps might cause a brain drain in the US foreign service corps.

According to the State Department, Tillerson is sticking to his schedule as state secretary, which will take him to Europe on a five-day trip next week.

During the tour, Tillerson will visit Brussels, Vienna and France, meeting NATO leaders and foreign ministers of the European Union members to discuss US-EU cooperation on major global issues.

Xinhua - Ap

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