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U.S. Senate confirms Tillerson as secretary of state

All News 05:51 February 02, 2017

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. Senate approved former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state on Wednesday despite concerns that he is too close to Russia and lacks government or diplomacy experience.

Tillerson's nomination passed the Senate in a 56-43 vote.

That compares with the overwhelming 98-1 approval of retired Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis as defense secretary.

One of the biggest concerns about Tillerson was his ties to Russia.

Tillerson, who joined Exxon straight from college as a production engineer in 1975 and rose to its helm in 2006, has concluded major deals with the Russian state-run corporation Rosneft and developed a personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He received Russia's Order of Friendship from Putin in 2013.

Tillerson is expected to sharply increase pressure on China to use more of its leverage on North Korea.

During his confirmation hearing last month, Tillerson strongly criticized Beijing for making "empty promises" to put pressure on North Korea, and vowed to consider "actions" to get Beijing to fully enforce sanctions on Pyongyang.

He also blamed the insufficient enforcement of sanctions as a main problem in dealing with the North.

Tillerson said he will further strengthen the alliances with South Korea and Japan, but said that allies should also "meet their obligations" in an apparent reference to President Donald Trump's call for allies to pay more for American troops stationed in those countries to help defend them.

U.S. Senate confirms Tillerson as secretary of state - 1


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