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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson leaves the podium after addressing a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Dec. 6, 2017 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

Undermined and Understaffed, Tillerson Arrives in Europe Like a ‘Ghost Ship’

Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017

The month of November saw a marked increase in the phenomenon known in Japan as “ghost ships”—North Korean fishing vessels that wash ashore or into Japanese waters, often empty or filled with the remains of deceased sailors. It seems like a fitting image for a visit taking place half the world away in Brussels, where U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived yesterday for a European trip that will see him continue on to Austria and France.

The parallels apply on a number of levels. Tillerson himself has been considered the political equivalent of a dead man walking—rumored to be unhappy with his boss and his job, and on his way out of the Trump administration—since at least this past summer. More recently, it was widely reported this week that the White House planned to replace him imminently with current CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Those reports were subsequently denied, but it seems reasonable to assume that Tillerson’s days in the Cabinet are numbered. ...

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