President Donald Trump has nominated ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson to be the next US secretary the White House announced Monday.
Tillerson, an avid supporter of Trump’s anti-China stance, has also been an early backer of a new pipeline to China that Trump has vowed to revive.
Titling his nomination in a short statement Monday, Tillerson said the US needs to act “with the greatest restraint” against “aggressive and unpredictable adversaries.”
The nominee will lead the department that handles energy security, climate change and other matters critical to US national security.
Tensions with China over the South China Sea have risen in recent weeks, with Trump threatening to impose economic sanctions on the Asian nation, which has long maintained a stranglehold on the oil-producing region.
Trump has been reluctant to criticize China publicly but has signaled a willingness to talk more about the dispute with Beijing if it comes to a head.
In a recent interview with ABC News, Tillerson criticized China’s behavior in the South and Southeast Asian seas.
Talks between the two countries have been stalled for more than a year, but Tillerson’s nomination to head the department was the first major diplomatic development since Trump took office in January.