US President Donald Trump speaks alongside Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) during a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, October 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks alongside Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) during a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, October 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:34
Trump fires Tillerson, hints at more changes
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 14: United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley listens during a United Nations Security Council emergency meeting concerning the situation in Syria, at United Nations headquarters, April 14, 2018 in New York City.  Yesterday the United States and European allies Britain and France launched airstrikes in Syria as punishment for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's suspected role in last week's chemical weapons attacks that killed upwards of 40 people. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 14: United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley listens during a United Nations Security Council emergency meeting concerning the situation in Syria, at United Nations headquarters, April 14, 2018 in New York City. Yesterday the United States and European allies Britain and France launched airstrikes in Syria as punishment for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's suspected role in last week's chemical weapons attacks that killed upwards of 40 people. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:04
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley resigns
President Donald J. Trump talks on the phone in the Oval Office receiving the latest updates from Capitol Hill on negotiations to end the Democrats government shutdown, Saturday, January 20, 2018, at the White House in Washington, D.C.
Joyce N. Boghosian/White House
President Donald J. Trump talks on the phone in the Oval Office receiving the latest updates from Capitol Hill on negotiations to end the Democrats government shutdown, Saturday, January 20, 2018, at the White House in Washington, D.C.
Now playing
02:40
The high-profile exits since Trump took office
former Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius
CNN
former Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius
Now playing
02:15
Fmr. ambassador resigned in protest of Trump
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 13: President Donald Trump's motorcade arrives at the White House on May 13, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Zach Gibson/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 13: President Donald Trump's motorcade arrives at the White House on May 13, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:51
White House deputy chief of staff to leave
Tom Bossert speaks at the White House press briefing on Thursday, August 31
CNN
Tom Bossert speaks at the White House press briefing on Thursday, August 31
Now playing
02:32
Source: John Bolton pushed out Tom Bossert
David Shulkin newday 04022018
CNN
David Shulkin newday 04022018
Now playing
00:47
Shulkin: I was fired by a tweet
National security adviser H.R. McMaster waves as he walks into the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Friday, March 16, 2018.
Susan Walsh/AP
National security adviser H.R. McMaster waves as he walks into the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Friday, March 16, 2018.
Now playing
01:57
Trump replaces McMaster with Fox News analyst
Getty Images/Chris Kleponis-Pool/Chip Somodevilla
Now playing
01:57
Trump celebrates McCabe firing on Twitter
pool
Now playing
01:44
Tillerson speaks after being fired
John McEntee, special assistant and personal aide follows US President Donald Trump to Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base September 27, 2017 in Maryland. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
John McEntee, special assistant and personal aide follows US President Donald Trump to Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base September 27, 2017 in Maryland. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:33
Longtime Trump aide John McEntee fired
CNN
Now playing
02:09
How to succeed as Trump's communications director
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 28: Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn waits to speak during the daily news briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, September 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. Cohn discussed the administration's plans  for reforming the tax code. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 28: Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn waits to speak during the daily news briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, September 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. Cohn discussed the administration's plans for reforming the tax code. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:58
Gary Cohn to resign as WH economic adviser
US President Donald Trump (L) congratulates Senior Counselor to the President Stephen Bannon during the swearing-in of senior staff in the East Room of the White House on January 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump (L) congratulates Senior Counselor to the President Stephen Bannon during the swearing-in of senior staff in the East Room of the White House on January 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:15
Trump: Steve Bannon cried when he got fired
 The White House is shown during departure by President Donald Trump for the congressional Gold Medal ceremony for former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole at the U.S. Capitol January 17, 2018 in Washington D.C. (Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)
Pool/Getty Images
The White House is shown during departure by President Donald Trump for the congressional Gold Medal ceremony for former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole at the U.S. Capitol January 17, 2018 in Washington D.C. (Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)
Now playing
00:51
Second WH aide resigns after abuse accusations
Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, on Friday, February 2, 2018, will host a summit at the Department of Justice in the Great Hall to discuss Department of Justice efforts to combat human trafficking.   Speakers:  Attorney General Jeff Sessions;  Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand;  Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen;  Business and Community leaders from around the country.   The event runs all day - from 9am - 4:45pm. We do not have a tick tock for speakers, so we need to shoot the entire day (obviously we care the most about Sessions and Nielsen). Laura Jarrett will attend this event as the producer and can write for digital.   Cameras need to be preset by 8am for this event   NOTE: All media must have government-issued photo I.D. (e.g. Driver's License), as well as valid media credentials. Media may begin arriving at 8:00 A.M. for security clearance. Please RSVP to Lauren Ehrsam by 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 1, 2018 at Lauren.Ehrsam@usdoj.gov.
POOL
Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, on Friday, February 2, 2018, will host a summit at the Department of Justice in the Great Hall to discuss Department of Justice efforts to combat human trafficking. Speakers: Attorney General Jeff Sessions; Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand; Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen; Business and Community leaders from around the country. The event runs all day - from 9am - 4:45pm. We do not have a tick tock for speakers, so we need to shoot the entire day (obviously we care the most about Sessions and Nielsen). Laura Jarrett will attend this event as the producer and can write for digital. Cameras need to be preset by 8am for this event NOTE: All media must have government-issued photo I.D. (e.g. Driver's License), as well as valid media credentials. Media may begin arriving at 8:00 A.M. for security clearance. Please RSVP to Lauren Ehrsam by 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 1, 2018 at Lauren.Ehrsam@usdoj.gov.
Now playing
01:58
NYT: Senior DOJ official steps down
(CNN) —  

Rex Tillerson may have spent the last 14 months being contradicted by his boss on all manner of foreign policy, but the now-fired Secretary of State was at least a known quantity for US allies during tense moments in 2017.

His summary dismissal, by Presidential tweet on Tuesday, caught foreign ministries around the world by surprise and left diplomats scrambling to craft a response.

In Asia, where governments are engaged in hurried preparations for a momentous inter-Korea summit followed by a potentially historic encounter between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, there were signs of nervousness.

Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono said he felt “much regret” over Tillerson’s firing, saying he “was a counterpart who I truly trusted and could talk to candidly.” Kono had been “looking forward to working on the North Korea issue” with him.

South Korean representatives had been expecting to meet Tillerson in Washington later this week, and Seoul insisted that business would continue as usual. “Both South Korea and the US shared the view that maintaining strong cooperation is … necessary despite the personnel reshuffle in the US, as there are important pending issues between the two countries,” the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Moscow, however, could not resist a dig. When asked whether he was concerned Tillerson’s firing would further sour relations between Russia and the US, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, said: “It’s hardly possible to get worse.”

Analysts said that, despite often being undermined by his boss, Tillerson served as a useful buffer to Trump’s impetuousness. With Defense Secretary James Mattis, he created “speed bumps” to any military escalation between Pyongyang and Washington, said John Park, Director of the Korea Working Group at Harvard Kennedy School.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hold talks with their Australian counterparts in Sydney on June 5, 2017.
MARK METCALFE/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hold talks with their Australian counterparts in Sydney on June 5, 2017.

“The partnership between Mattis and Tillerson was absolutely critical last year,” Park told CNN. “Now the question is how will Secretary Mattis continue in terms of providing that function of a speed bump.”

Trump said current CIA director Mike Pompeo would take over from Tillerson, who retired as chief executive of Exxon Mobil before agreeing to join Trump’s administration last year.

Mattis may not enjoy the same kind of partnership with Pompeo as he had with Tillerson, particularly given Pompeo’s stance on North Korea and its weapons program. In July last year, Pompeo told the Aspen Security Forum that the US administration needed to find a way to separate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from his nuclear stockpile.

“As for the regime, I am hopeful we will find a way to separate that regime from this system,” Pompeo said. “The North Korean people I’m sure are lovely people and would love to see him go.”

Trump is the only one who matters

Pompeo’s hardline position aside, all that matters is that Trump follow through on attending a meeting with Kim Jong Un, said James Person at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Trump surprised the world by accepting an invitation from the reclusive leader to see each other by the end of May.

“The fact that the president is now agreeing to the summit, hopefully that will be the party line for the time being,” he told CNN.

South Korea would certainly hope as much.

02:26 - Source: CNN
Trump: Something positive could happen with NK

“I think there’s a greater sense of urgency moving forward with Trump and Kim Jong Un,” said Park. “What comes after is a big question mark, but having Trump walk into that meeting and proceeding according to that agreement is a huge benefit to South Korea at this stage.”

But that benefit is fleeting, Park pointed out. There is still no game plan for how the dialogue might continue, or who would serve as interlocutors for the administration. Last month the top American diplomat on North Korea, Joseph Yun, announced that he was retiring early. There is an acting ambassador in South Korea and hundreds of staff working on the Pyongyang issue, but the White House’s diplomatic ranks are depleted.

Unpredictable White House

There’s still no official word from Pyongyang on whether the meeting is going ahead, no details on when or where it would occur, and who would attend.

But a disruptive Oval Office, while unsettling to American allies like Japan and South Korea, is actually working to bring North Korea to the table, argues Person.

“I would say that’s the reason they’re even seemingly open to talks with the US,” he said. “I think they pretty much believed they had US presidents and their administrations figured out. They saw us not responding militarily to the [seizure of US Navy Ship] Pueblo, the shootdown of the EC-121, they were openly laughing at us.”

Trump’s unpredictability and his quest to build an administration more in line with his own thinking might have actually earned him Pyongyang’s respect, notes Daniel Russel, a former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

01:12 - Source: CNN
Tillerson: US ready to talk to North Korea

“North Korea sees in Trump a dominant leader whose subordinates are guided by him, not vice versa. That’s a political system they can relate to, and explains why they were uninterested in dealing with Tillerson instead of Trump himself,” said Russel, now a senior fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute.

As the May summit approaches, expect more changes to come, Park warns.

“When you see Trump making statements. He now has the confidence to trust his instincts and judgment. We’re going to see a very quick turnover and have the type of Cabinet Trump wants, individuals who amplify his thinking, not try and change it,” said Park from the Harvard Kennedy School. “Things are going to move a lot faster now.”