International desk – President-elect Donald Trump has named Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, as his choice for US secretary of state.
In a statement, Trump praised Tillerson, 64, as among the “most accomplished business leaders and international dealmakers” in the world, according to a BBC report.
Tillerson is said to have a good relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, alarming both Democrats and some Republicans. The nomination needs Senate approval.
Days ago it emerged that US intelligence agencies believe Russia acted covertly to boost Donald Trump in the election race.
The secretary of state is in effect the most senior US diplomat, responsible for enacting the government’s foreign policy.
Under a Trump presidency, his in-tray could include everything from handling rows with China to revisiting the nuclear accord with Iran.
“Rex Tillerson’s career is the embodiment of the American dream,” Trump said.
“His tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics make him an excellent choice for secretary of state.”
Tillerson said he was “honoured” by the nomination, adding that he shared Trump’s “vision for restoring the credibility of the United States’ foreign relations and advancing our country’s national security”.
The announcement had been widely expected, with Tillerson favoured over high-profile Republicans, including the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.
Although he has no formal foreign policy experience, as Exxon chief Tillerson oversees a company with 75,000 employees and business activities in more than 50 countries.
He has warned of the “catastrophic” impact of unchecked climate change, although his company has been accused of deliberately misleading the public about the role of fossil fuels in global warming.
But it is his connections to Russia that have drawn most flak.
He has forged multi-billion-dollar deals with Russia’s state oil company, Rosneft, spoken out against international sanctions imposed on Moscow and in 2013 was awarded an Order of Friendship by the Kremlin.
As rumours of his nomination gathered pace in recent days, one of Trump’s rivals for the Republican nomination, Marco Rubio, said being “a friend of Vladimir is not an attribute I am hoping for from” the next secretary of state.
Another Republican Senator John McCain expressed concern over Tillerson’s links to Putin but promised he would get a “fair hearing” in the Senate.
Reacting to the nomination, Putin’s foreign policy adviser, Yury Ushakov, said all Russian officials and not just the president enjoyed “good, businesslike relations” with Tillerson.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said his country was “looking forward” to working with the nominee, according to the BBC.