Tuesday, March 13, 2018

US Tillerson shortens African tour over ‘schedule demands’

 

N’Djamena. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday was to shorten his maiden tour of Africa because of work, aides said.

“Due to demands in the secretary’s schedule he is returning to the US one day early, after concluding official meetings in Chad and Nigeria,” Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein told the press.

Tillerson, making his first trip to Africa as the senior-most US diplomat, has visited Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya since last Wednesday.

He is due to fly from the Chadian capital of N’Djamena on Monday to the Nigerian capital Abuja, staying there for several hours before heading for home in the early evening.

He had initially been scheduled to stay there overnight, hold further meetings on Tuesday with US embassy staff and then fly back to Washington.

But the African tour has coincided with the shock announcement of a possible summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump over the nuclear standoff in the Korean peninsula.

Tillerson, cancelled his programme in Kenya on Saturday because he was feeling unwell.

“The secretary is not feeling well after a long couple days working on major issues back home such as North Korea and has cancelled his events for the day,” said a brief statement from Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein. He later said that Tillerson was “feeling better and will resume his normal schedule tomorrow (Sunday)”.

The announcement came little more than 24 hours after US President Donald Trump stunned the world by accepting an invitation to meet North Korea’s Kim Jong Un before the end of May.

The audacious diplomatic gambit, which was taken before consulting key confidantes including Tillerson -- who was in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa at the time -- left aides scrambling to catch up.

Just hours before the summit announcement Thursday, Tillerson had said Washington was “a long way” from talking directly to North Korea as he kicked off his five-nation Africa tour.

The US diplomat, who arrived in Nairobi on Friday, had been due to visit AIDS relief programme PEPFAR on Saturday and attend a ceremony marking 20 years since Al-Qaeda bombed the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people.(AFP)

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