Citing Rex Tillerson’s business acumen and “broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics,” US President-elect Donald Trump has confirmed the ExxonMobil head as secretary of state.
Mr Trump praised the 64-year-old Republican as one of the world’s most successful businessmen.
“Rex Tillerson’s career is the embodiment of the American dream. Through hard work, dedication and smart deal making, Rex rose through the ranks to become CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest and most respected companies,” Mr Trump said.
As secretary of state, Mr Tillerson says he will focus on strengthening alliances, while pursuing “shared national interests and enhancing the strength, security and sovereignty of the United States”.
The nomination needs Senate approval.
Mr Trump picked Mr Tillerson after the Texan was backed by several Republican establishment figures including former secretary of state James Baker, former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice and former defence secretary Robert Gates, the transition official said.
Their support is seen as key to helping Mr Tillerson get past a possibly contentious Senate confirmation battle likely to focus on his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In 2013, Mr Putin bestowed a Russian state honour, the Order of Friendship, on Mr Tillerson, citing his work “strengthening cooperation in the energy sector”.
Mr Trump judged in making the pick that Mr Tillerson could adequately address questions about his relations with Russia, an official said.
Politicians from both major parties have raised questions about Mr Tillerson and former UN Ambassador John Bolton, who has been mentioned as a possible No.2 State Department official and who has voiced hawkish views on Iraq and Iran.
Republicans and Democrats said Mr Tillerson, who is president of ExxonMobil Corp, would be asked about his contacts with Russia, having met Mr Putin several times. He won fresh praise from Moscow on Monday.
Senator John McCain, a leading foreign policy voice and the 2008 Republican candidate for president, told Reuters in an interview: “I have concerns. It’s very well known that he has a very close relationship with Vladimir Putin.”