Tillerson leaves behind a hollowed out State Department

World Today

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) is shown to his car as he arrives at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, on March 9, 2018. US President on March 13 sacked his top diplomat Rex Tillerson and named current CIA chief to succeed him, ending a rocky tenure by the Texas oilman who had been sidelined on the world stage by the mercurial president. ( AFP PHOTO / POOL / JONATHAN ERNST)

If confirmed, Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, will inherit a department full of empty chairs – In Washington, and abroad.

CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg reports why it’s causing alarm in many countries.

The U.S. still has no ambassador in more than 40 capitals, including in key ally states like Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Australia.

“They are our second largest trading partner, our largest source of foreign direct investment, our strongest security and defense ally,” Julie Bishop, Australian foreign minister said. He spoke on Wednesday about the importance of her country’s relationship with the U.S.

U.S. President Trump has yet to even nominate ambassadors for some two dozen posts. More than a dozen others are awaiting confirmation.

Back in January, the White House withdrew its nominee to represent the U.S. in South Korea. This came after he directly challenged the administration’s open consideration of a pre-emptive strike against the North. A month later, Washington’s special envoy for the DPRK retired, after Trump outright rejected talks with Pyongyang without pre-conditions.

Last week, the President accepted an invitation to meet with DPRK leader Kim Jong-un. The invitation was delivered not through his Secretary of State, but directly to the White House by a South Korean delegation.

Other positions that would play a key role in those historic talks also remain unfilled. Some of those positions have interim appointees keeping seats warm. Some foreign officials have expressed hope that Rex Tillerson’s departure won’t derail any progress.

“We hope that the relevant sides can have talks with a good result and work towards a peaceful, stable and denuclearized Korean Peninsula,” said Lu Kang of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

“Tillerson was really someone I could trust and be honest with,” said Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono. “I thought we could work together toward resolving issues surrounding the DPRK. Personally, I am very disappointed this had to happen.”

When it comes to the DPRK (and foreign policy in general) Tillerson’s slated replacement, Pompeo, is considered to be more on the same page as the President. Pompeo’s State Department, however full or empty, could more openly embrace Trump’s “America First” approach abroad.

“We are willing to work together with the new Secretary of State,” said Lu in Beijing on Wednesday, “to follow up on the important consensus reached between the leaders of our two countries, to have mutual respect and benefits, to focus on cooperation and to manage differences, and to promote the stable and healthy development of Sino-U.S. relations going forward. This is in not only in the interests of both countries and their people, but it is the universal wish of the international community.”

Meanwhile, Germany’s Deputy Foreign Minister said he doubted Tillerson’s firing would improve strained cross-Atlantic relations. Perhaps less diplomatically, the deputy speaker of Germany’s parliament said the move showed the U.S. President to be “capricious and erratic.”