Trump President-elect to announce top diplomat pick Tuesday

Shortly after Trump said he would be making his choice official, Romney indicated he was out of the running.

  • Published:
Rex Tillerson, pictured in 2015, was a vocal opponent of sanctions on Moscow that thwarted his attempt to strike huge oil deals in the Russian Arctic play

Rex Tillerson, pictured in 2015, was a vocal opponent of sanctions on Moscow that thwarted his attempt to strike huge oil deals in the Russian Arctic

(AFP/File)
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President-elect Donald Trump said he will announce his choice to fill the prized post of secretary of state on Tuesday, ending weeks-long speculation over the globally significant vacancy.

"I will be making my announcement on the next Secretary of State tomorrow morning," Trump said, using his favored medium, Twitter.

Trump has led a contentious search for America's next top diplomat, with ExxonMobil President and CEO Rex Tillerson tipped as the most likely pick despite concerns over his ties to Russia's Vladimir Putin.

But the list of contenders includes eight or nine names, including the erstwhile Trump critic and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former CIA director David Petraeus, former UN ambassador John Bolton and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker.

Shortly after Trump said he would be making his choice official, Romney indicated he was out of the running.

"It was an honor to have been considered for secretary of state of our great country," Romney wrote on his Facebook page.

"My discussions with President-elect Trump have been both enjoyable and enlightening. I have very high hopes that the new administration will lead the nation to greater strength, prosperity and peace."

CNN reported that Trump had called Romney to tell him he had not been selected for the post.

Ruffling feathers

Trump's secretary of state will be tasked with overseeing international relations for a political novice who seems intent on trashing protocol and upending relationships built on decades of delicate diplomacy.

With more than five weeks to go before he is sworn in, Trump is already ruffling feathers with his statements about two major world powers: Russia and China.

Trump administration nominees play

Trump administration nominees

(AFP)

The president-elect has fanned alarm -- even among fellow Republicans -- by calling for closer ties with Moscow, in contrast to received wisdom in Washington that Russia remains a global security threat.

He has dismissed as "ridiculous" reports that US intelligence has concluded that Russia interfered in last month's presidential election to sway the vote in his favor.

And Sino-US relations are under threat after a series of moves by Trump that provoked China, America's biggest single goods trading partner and the holder of almost a trillion dollars in US government debt.

The incoming president has suggested that Beijing may have to make concessions on trade if US policy toward China is to stay the same. He also directly challenged China over its currency and its takeover of disputed islets in the South China Sea.

That came after Trump raised eyebrows by taking a congratulatory call from the president of Taiwan, a self-ruling island that Beijing considers a rogue province awaiting unification.

It was a break from the "One China policy" -- which recognizes Beijing as the sole representative of China -- the cornerstone of the relationship between the countries since president Richard Nixon went to China in 1972.

China's foreign ministry has warned that if the One China policy is "compromised or disrupted," cooperation in major fields would be "out of the question."

'World-class player?'

If he is nominated, Tillerson is sure to face sharp questioning in Senate confirmation hearings.

The 64-year-old Texas oilman has opposed sanctions on Russia and in 2013 was awarded the Order of Friendship by Putin.

Trump has praised Tillerson as "much more than a business executive."

"I mean, he's a world-class player," the president-elect told "Fox News Sunday."

"He knows many of the players and he knows them well.

"He does massive deals in Russia. He does massive deals for the company, not for himself, for the company."

The secretary of state job is the most prestigious position yet to be filled in Trump's cabinet in waiting.

Other outstanding nominations include the heads of the Agriculture, Energy, Interior and Veterans Affairs agencies.

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