The White House has reportedly put together a plan to remove Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as President Donald Trump increasingly rejects diplomatic efforts to contain North Korea.
Mr Tillerson would be replaced with CIA director Mike Pompeo as early as a few weeks, The New York Times quoted senior administration officials as saying.
It was not immediately clear whether Mr Trump had given final approval to the plan.
Asked by reporters on Thursday local time if he wanted Mr Tillerson to retain his job, Mr Trump would only say: “He’s here. Rex is here.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders later issued a statement saying there were “no personnel announcements at this time”.
“Secretary Tillerson continues to lead the State Department and the entire cabinet is focused on completing this incredibly successful first year of President Trump’s administration,” the statement said.
The reports of a diplomatic shakeup come as Mr Trump dismissed a Chinese diplomatic effort to rein in North Korea’s weapons program as a failure.
In a tweet overnight, the President delivered another insulting barb against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who he’d already called a “sick puppy” after Pyongyang launched its most advanced missile to date on Thursday morning.
“The Chinese envoy, who just returned from North Korea, seems to have had no impact on Little Rocket Man,” Mr Trump posted on Twitter, a day after speaking with Chinese President Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Separately on Thursday, Mr Tillerson welcomed Chinese efforts on North Korea, but said Beijing could do more to limit its oil exports to the country.
While Trump has been bellicose at times in rhetoric towards North Korea, Mr Tillerson has persistently held out hopes for a return to dialogue if North Korea shows it is willing to give up its nuclear weapons program.
Mr Trump has pledged more sanctions in response to the latest test at an emergency UN Security Council meeting.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed to joint US-South Korean military exercises planned for December and accused the United States of trying to provoke Kim into “flying off the handle” over his missile program to hand Washington a pretext to destroy his country.
He also flatly rejected a US call to cut ties with Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile program, calling US policy towards North Korea deeply flawed.
In a call with Mr Trump on Thursday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the missile launched this week was North Korea’s most advanced so far, but it was unclear whether Pyongyang had the technology to miniaturise a nuclear warhead and it still needed to prove other things, such as its re-entry technology.
– With AAP