China removed Foreign Minister Qin Gang from his post on Tuesday after a one-month absence from public duties, replacing him with his predecessor Wang Yi, state media said, after weeks of speculation about what had happened to him.
Qin, 57, who only took up the job in December after a brief stint as envoy to the United States, had not been seen in public since June 25 when he met visiting diplomats in Beijing.
After he missed an international diplomatic summit in Indonesia, his ministry later said he was off work for unspecified health reasons, but the lack of detailed information fuelled a swirl of speculation.
"China's top legislature voted to appoint Wang Yi as foreign minister as it convened a session on Tuesday," state media outlet Xinhua said, "Qin Gang was removed from the post of foreign minister."
The report did not give a reason for Mr Qin's removal but said President Xi Jinping signed a presidential order to enact the decision.
Mr Qin had been seen as a confidant of Mr Xi and many analysts attributed his recent fast rise through the diplomatic ranks to their relationship.
China has remained tight-lipped for weeks about the fate of Mr Qin, who has not been seen in public since June 25 when he met Russia's deputy foreign minister Andrey Rudenko in Beijing.
Mr Qin's duties had lately been taken on by China's top diplomat Mr Wang, who leads the ruling Communist Party's foreign policy and outranks Mr Qin in the government hierarchy.
Mr Qin had replaced Mr Wang as foreign minister in December last year.
It comes amid a flurry of international engagements and frayed ties with rival superpower the United States, which Beijing has described as at their lowest point since the establishment of diplomatic relations.
The world's two biggest economies are at odds over issues including Ukraine and Beijing's close ties to Moscow, trade and technology disputes, and Taiwan, the democratic, self-ruled island which Beijing claims as its own. (Reuters)