US President Donald Trump has replaced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo.
The CIA will now be headed by Gina Haspel, who will be the first woman to hold the position if confirmed by the US Senate.
Tillerson, a former chief executive of ExxonMobil, held the post for just over a year and had a rocky tenure as the country’s top diplomat.
Announcing the decision on Twitter, President Trump said: “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! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!”.
Tillerson has been out of favour with the president for some time now and differed with him on many foreign policy issues. The most recent was on Monday, when he blamed Russia directly for the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter with a military-grade nerve agent in the United Kingdom.
On this issue, the White House had said the US stood by Britain, calling it America's "closest ally," but stopped short of blaming Russia for the attack.
Tillerson leaves at a time when the White House is preparing for potential talks with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. It is believed even Tillerson was not aware of Trump’s announcement to hold talks with the North Korean leader.
The other big challenge facing the administration is President’s Trump’s tariff on steel and aluminium as it threatens to blow out into a trade war of sorts with many countries.
Commenting on the matter, a senior White House official said: “The president wanted to make sure to have his new team in place in advance of the upcoming talks with North Korea and various ongoing trade negotiations.”
Tillerson had to cut a trip to Africa short on Monday, citing “the demands of work and the need to be in Washington for in-person meetings.”
Before leaving the White House for a trip to California on Tuesday morning, President Trump said he will be “speaking to Rex Tillerson over a long period of time."
“I made the decision [to replace Tillerson] by myself,” he said.
President Trump indicated that he differed with Tillerson on issues and had also disagreed with his secretary of state over Iran.
A separate statement issued on behalf of Tillerson said he had "every intention of staying" and was "unaware" of the reason for his removal.
The statement also said he had not spoken to President Trump.
It seems Tillerson, too, got to know of it through Mr Trump’s Tweet.
The president praised Mike Pompeo saying: "We are always on the same wave length. I have total confidence in him."
There are many who believe that Tillerson had struggled with his job and many a times he was publicly undermined by President Trump through his Tweets.
Some analysts have also suggested that Tillerson felt overwhelmed by the challenge of diplomacy and have blamed him for shrinking the State Department.