Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, a leading architect of U.S.-China policy, resigned June 19, saying he was returning to private investment giant Goldman Sachs.
"I've accomplished what I've set out to do, and it's time for me to step down," Zoellick said as he announced his decision at the State Department, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by his side.
Zoellick was more than a deputy to Rice. He took personal charge of the China and Southeast Asia, Latin America and Sudan portfolios as well as international economic issues, having served as U.S. Trade Representative prior to his most recent appointment.
Zoellick's successor has not been named yet but analysts said it would difficult for anyone to fill his shoes.
"I feel it is unfortunate," said Robert Hathaway of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. "He certainly was an articulate voice in an administration which has not always been known for mature, sober, hard-headed thinking."
In an apparent bid to quell any speculation Zoellick resigned due to differences of views, Rice said, "My close personal relationship with Bob has been the foundation of all our work together here at the State Department."
She added, "Today, America's diplomacy is on track, it is stronger than ever, and that is due in no small part to Bob Zoellick."
Media reports had said that Zoellick, 52, was reported to have held talks with Wall Street banks following his disappointment over being bypassed for the treasury secretary's post in a recent shuffle. Zoellick, speaking to a few reporters, said that he knew he would be a contender for the post but his resignation "was independent of that."
He said, "I'm pleased to be joining Goldman Sachs," adding that he would be chairman of the Wall Street firm's international advisors group. He had worked as the firm's senior international advisor in the 1990s.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006