Countries surprised by sacking, hope for continuity in ties

Here is a round-up of key reactions to United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's ouster.

SOUTH KOREA

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha said Mr Tillerson's departure was "a sudden change", but would not affect Seoul's cooperation with Washington on North Korean nuclear issues, Yonhap reported yesterday.

Ms Kang had been scheduled to meet Mr Tillerson tomorrow for talks to discuss North Korea. Her ministry said yesterday the meeting would go ahead as planned.

While she declined to comment specifically on Mr Mike Pompeo's appointment, she said she believed the close coordination between Washington and Seoul would continue under his administration.

CHINA

China did not address Mr Tillerson's departure, but said it hoped the political will for talks between the US and North Korea would be maintained even with his exit, Reuters reported.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said yesterday that China wanted to work with Mr Pompeo to manage differences between the two countries, and would continue to cooperate with Washington on hot-spot issues.

Meanwhile, the state-backed Global Times tabloid yesterday said that the "abruptness of the incident came as a surprise". It also noted that Mr Tillerson's exit had been rumoured for some time, and that it was the latest in a string of departures of Trump officials.

On Mr Pompeo, the editorial noted that "he is known for his stern views".

It added: "However, unlike the more restrained Tillerson, the President's new expert Pompeo is likely to add more foam to the top, leading to uncertainty and a higher risk."

JAPAN

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said that he personally regretted Mr Tillerson's departure, Reuters reported. "He (Tillerson) was a frank, trustworthy counterpart, and I thought we would deal with the North Korea issue together, but personally, I feel that this situation that has developed is unfortunate," the minister told reporters.

Mr Kono, who was scheduled to hold talks with Mr Tillerson in Washington later this week, will visit the US as scheduled.

Meanwhile, a source close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the news was a surprise, but one that would not affect US-Japan ties, the NHK news agency reported.

PHILIPPINES

The Philippines thanked Mr Tillerson for working through a chal-lenging period in ties between the two countries.

Relations have been strained after President Rodrigo Duterte took office and declared that his country would distance itself from the US, its longstanding ally.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said: "We thank Secretary Tillerson for his friendship and the support he has extended to the Philippines and the Filipino people, particularly during the period when our relations with the United States were facing challenges.

"We congratulate Mike Pompeo on his designation as the new Secretary of State. We look forward to working with him and further strengthening the special relationship between the Philippines and the United States."

AUSTRALIA

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull thanked Mr Tillerson and welcomed Mr Pompeo into the job, The Australian reported.

"I want to thank Rex Tillerson for the great work he has done as Secretary of State. He has been a terrific partner for us. We thank him for that and congratulate him on his great work, and we look forward to working with Mike Pompeo.

"We know him very well. He is a great friend of Australia. The transition will be absolutely seamless," said Mr Turnbull.

BRITAIN

A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain was grateful for Mr Tillerson's cooperation, Reuters reported.

"We are grateful for the excellent relationship and cooperation that we have had with Rex Tillerson, and look forward to that continuing under the new US Secretary of State," the spokesman said.

RUSSIA

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was unlikely ties between Moscow and Washington could get any worse, but that Russia hoped for a constructive and sober approach to relations between the two countries, Reuters reported.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2018, with the headline 'Countries surprised by sacking, hope for continuity in ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe