Rex Tillerson, former oil man and current Secretary of State, presides over an emptied-out department facing deep budget cuts with limited influence in Trump’s White House. Despite this, he is responsible for handling a potential nuclear crisis.
On Tillerson’s diplomatic trip to Seoul, South Korea, which took place amid fairly nerve-wracking escalation surrounding North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and the potential US response, he was accompanied not by the normal press pool but by a single reporter from conservative website IJR, which has yet to publish anything on the trip (reporter Erin McPike tweeted that she is working on a longer story). What has been published is a report from the South Korean press citing Seoul officials’ claim that Tillerson cut talks short due to “fatigue.” Via the Korea Herald:
Meanwhile, his shortened diplomatic consultations and public events in Seoul spawned a flurry of speculation given a leadership vacuum and political uncertainties.
The joint news conference aside, Tillerson spent almost two 1/2 hours with Kishida including a dinner and another one hour with Abe. But his meetings with Yun and Hwang were confined to about an hour 1/2, respectively, without any lunch or dinner gathering. Seoul officials said the US side opted not to have a meal together, citing the secretary’s “fatigue.”
Now, I am the last person to judge anyone for experiencing fatigue—I am always fatigued! Can’t get enough sleep, personally! But I am not and will never, ever be the Secretary of State, a position that is pretty widely known to be taxing, although it’s worth noting that the last two people who did it seemed to handle the schedule just fine. (It’s also worth noting that an early front-runner for Secretary of State, Rudy Giuliani, was rumored to have fallen out of favor for the position after he fell asleep during a meeting. )
Again, there would probably be more information available on what happened here if Tillerson had allowed more reporters to travel with him. What appears to have happened is the United States cut short badly-needed talks with an ally because an inexperienced oil executive got tired. I should probably make a joke here about “stamina,” but I think I would rather lie down.