The US president says he is replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and has tapped Gina Haspel to head the intelligence agency, the first woman to head the US spy service.

Tillerson's departure represents the biggest staff change in the Trump Cabinet so far and caps months of tensions between the Republican president and the 65-year-old former Exxon Mobil chief executive.
Tillerson's departure represents the biggest staff change in the Trump Cabinet so far and caps months of tensions between the Republican president and the 65-year-old former Exxon Mobil chief executive. ( AP )

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he has replaced US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, and has tapped Gina Haspel to lead the CIA.

Trump tweeted his decision.

"Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!" Trump said on Twitter.

Pompeo is to be replaced at the Central Intelligence Agency by Gina Haspel, Pompeo's deputy at the CIA. She will be the first woman in that role.

Tillerson had just returned from a shortened trip to Africa hours before Trump's announcement. Trump offered no explanation for the change.

A top State Department official said Trump never explained to ousted Tillerson the reason why he was fired.

Another US official said that Trump wanted a cabinet reshuffle ahead of planned talks with North Korea.

The undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, Steve Goldstein, said Tillerson "had every intention of staying" in the job because he felt he was making critical progress in national security.

Two White House officials said Tillerson was told he was out on Friday. The sources weren't authorised to speak publicly and demanded anonymity.

But Goldstein says Tillerson "did not speak to the president and is unaware of the reason."

He further said that Tillerson will miss his colleagues at the State Department and the foreign ministers he worked with.

Goldstein added, "We wish Secretary Pompeo well."

Source: Reuters