The top American diplomat in China has resigned, amid reports claiming that his opposition to Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement may have led to the decision. A spokeswoman from the state department confirmed the departure of David Rank, who was appointed last year to serve chargé d’affaires in Beijing. However, the spokesperson was unable to confirm whether he resigned due to an unwillingness to formally notify China of the Paris decision.

According to the spokesperson, Anna Richey-Allen:

“He has retired from the foreign service. Mr. Rank has made a personal decision. We appreciate his years of dedicated service to the state department.”

However, a Tweet from John Pomfret, a China expert, quoted unnamed sources saying Rank had stepped down because he could not support Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord. He Tweeted:

“David Rank, no.2 @USEmbassyBJ, has resigned, sources say. He couldn’t back Trump on climate. Rank had 27yr career including @USEmbassyKabul”

He will be replaced by Iowa governor Terry Branstad, Trump’s pick as the next US ambassador to Beijing, later this month.

In a separate Tweet, Pomfret said that Rank had called a town hall meeting to announce his plans to resign, explaining that he felt unable to deliver the formal notification of the Paris withdrawal.

One anonymous senior US official confirmed Pomfret’s account, adding that Rank was told by the state department to leave immediately after he announced his plans to resign.

Richey-Allen said Jonathan Fritz, economics councilor for the embassy, would serve as charge in the meantime.

Trump announced last Thursday that he planned to withdraw from the agreement, which went into effect in November of last year. Trump said several times during his campaign that climate change is a “hoax” created by the Chinese to render the US less competitive. He vowed to withdraw from the Paris agreement, and after months of deliberation with senior advisors, decided to follow through on the campaign promise. The withdrawal process could take years, and may even depend on the results of the 2020 election.

Trump’s decision faced widespread criticism from mayors, governors, and the private sector in the US, and from the international diplomatic community. The US would join just two other countries, Syria and Nicaragua, in leaving the Paris agreement. The accord was signed by 194 nations, including North Korea.

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