WASHINGTON – President-elect Donald Trump has named Exxon Mobil Corp. Chief Executive Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state, a transition official said on Monday.

Tillerson is a veteran CEO who has had extensive overseas business dealings but his relationships with foreign leaders could complicate his confirmation prospects. He has emerged as Mr Trump’s top pick for the position despite significant criticism for his apparent ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Trump said the businessman’s “tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics make him an excellent choice for Secretary of State”.

“He will promote regional stability and focus on the core national security interests of the United States. Rex knows how to manage a global enterprise, which is crucial to running a successful State Department, and his relationships with leaders all over the world are second to none,” Trump added.

“[Tillerson] will be a forceful and clear-eyed advocate for America’s vital national interests, and help reverse years of misguided foreign policies and actions that have weakened America’s security and standing in the world,” Trump said in his statement.

In a tweet, Trump added: “I have chosen one of the truly great business leaders of the world, Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, to be Secretary of State.”

Tillerson said he shared the President-elect’s “vision for restoring the credibility of the United States’ foreign relations and advancing our country’s national security.”

The US Senate needs to approve Tillerson’s nomination before he can assume the position, which raises the possibility of a confirmation fight sparked by Democrats and some Republicans who are alarmed by the businessman’s good relationship with Mr Putin.