President Donald Trump has sacked United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hours after he returned to the US from Africa.
He has been replaced by CIA chief Mike Pompeo.
“Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State,” Trump said in a tweet.
“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!”
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2018
Mr Tillerson’s tour of Africa took him to has also included Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Chad and Nigeria where he met with President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Tillerson, a former chief executive of ExxonMobil, was only appointed to the job just over a year ago.
A senior White House official told the BBC about the timing of the announcement: “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.”
Mr Tillerson was on an official tour of Africa last week when he was apparently caught unawares by Mr Trump’s announcement that he would hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The top US diplomat’s team said he was feeling unwell on Saturday and later in the weekend the state department said he would cut short his tour by a day.
On Monday, Mr Tillerson appeared to depart from White House talking points when he backed British authorities in blaming the Kremlin for the poisoning of a former Russian spy near his home in southern England.
The secretary of state said the nerve agent attack “clearly came from Russia” and “certainly will trigger a response”.
But earlier in the day the White House declined to point the finger at Russia.
Reports have swirled of a schism in the Trump administration between the commander-in-chief and his top diplomat, as the US faces a host of vexatious foreign policy conundrums, from North Korea to Iran.
Last October Mr Tillerson was forced to convene a news conference to deny reports that he was considering quitting, though he did not comment on a report that he had called his boss a moron after a meeting last July at the Pentagon.
Last autumn, Mr Trump publicly undercut the former Texas oilman by tweeting that he was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with nuclear-armed North Korea.
Mr Tillerson was reported to be astonished at how little Mr Trump grasped the basics of foreign policy.
The New York Times quoted sources as saying Mr Trump was irritated by Mr Tillerson’s body language during meetings.
Mr Tillerson was said to roll his eyes or slouch when he disagreed with the decisions of his boss.