Did Rex Tillerson disappear for a weekend during major crises?

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN

Robbie Gramer, a reporter for Foreign Policy has been searching for US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. On September 5 he tweeted; “It’s kind of telling that 4 hours ago I asked the State Dept simply where Tillerson was this weekend and they still havent gotten back to me.” As the day went on he still had not received an answer. “Update: a spokesperson said ‘still looking into this.’ So State Dept is still looking into where the Secretary of State was this weekend.” Noah Rothman at Commentary also wondered where he was as the US was navigating a crises with North Korea. “Anyone heard from the secretary of state since DPRK tested a boosted fission weapon sending our allies scrambling and ramping up deterrence?”

Admiral James Stavridis, current dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, also told FoxNews radio it was concerning that Tillerson seemed to be “missing in action.” He said “I have no idea and you know somebody said to me well maybe we ought to see Tillerson out there making a big diplomatic move. Hey at this point I would settle for a simple press release from the State Department…Rex Tillerson, where is he? I think a lot of people are asking that this morning.”

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It is a bit strange that the US Secretary of State would be out of touch for a weekend that involved momentous North Korean nuclear tensions. On Tuesday Sept. 5 Sputnik reported that Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov had spoken to Tillerson regarding North Korea. The conversations took place on September 5th.

Recently there has been discussion about Tillerson’s “empty” state department. Pro-Trump partisans call this “draining the swamp.” On August 27th he interviewed with FoxNews’ Chris Wallace and distanced himself from Trump. The distancing may be mutual. On August 28, before he disappeared, it was reported that he was seeking to reduce the number of envoys the US has. On August 29th he sent a letter to Sen. Bob Corker on this issue. He also reassured Japan and South Korea on US commitments.  On August 30th he testified “to the foreign operations subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.” He also thanked Mexico for Hurricane aid during a meeting on August 30.  On Thursday the 31st “A State Department official confirmed that Tillerson last week approved the use of about $60 million by the Global Engagement Center toward the anti-propaganda efforts.” On August 31 he gave remarks for Kyrgyz Independence Day at the State Dept. He also gave remarks for Eid al-Adha, Slovak, Trinidad and Tobago and Vietnam national days.

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That something was amiss was clear Friday Sept. 1 when he skipped an annual announcement on human rights at the State Department. Some have speculated he may leave the administration. Prof. Daniel Drezner of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University wrote on Sept. 1st at The Washington Post that he should resign. Vanity Fair is also wondering what his future is. He was missing on Sept. 3 and Trump excluded mentioning him. “I will be meeting General Kelly, General Mattis and other military leaders at the White House to discuss North Korea. Thank you.” On Sept. 4 a cryptic detail emerged in another FoxNews interview when a State Dept. Spokesperson said Tillerson was “serious and committed” to staying in his job.

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Yet it appears that he spoke to South Korea’s Foreign Minister on Sept. 3.  Heather Nauert tweeted: “Sec Tillerson spoke this morning w FM Kang Kyung-wha following news .”

Where was he?

To summarize what we know:

August 27 Sunday
Fox News interview

August 28 Monday

Seeks to reduce number of envoys

August 29 Tuesday

Letter to Senator Bob Corker about envoys
Speaks to Japan and S. Korea counterparts

August 30 Wednesday

Speaks to US House of Representatives Approps sub-committee

August 31 Thursday

Remarks from Washington for various national days and Eid al-Adha

September 1 Friday

 

September 2 Saturday

 

September 3 Sunday

Speaks to South Korea Foreign Minister

September 4th Monday

 

September 5th Tuesday
Speaks to Russian FM Lavrov

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