In one of his first detailed interviews with the US media, during a trip to Asia last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson revealed he did not wanted the job of Trump's highest ranking diplomat – his wife told him to do it.

"I didn't want this job. I didn't seek this job," Tillerson told the Independent Journal Review (IJR), a conservative media outlet that was the only one allowed to join him on his journey to Japan, South Korea, and China. "My wife told me I'm supposed to do this," he added.

Tillerson said he had never met President Donald Trump before the November 2016 election, but agreed to meet him shortly afterward when asked to have a conversation about the geopolitics he navigated for more than a decade as CEO of Exxon Mobil. "When he asked me at the end of that conversation to be Secretary of State, I was stunned," Tillerson said.

On his return, he floated the idea to his wife Renda St Clair who, Tillerson said, shook her finger at him and said: "I told you, God's not through with you."

Tillerson and his wife Renda St. Clair own the Bar RR Ranches near their home in Bartonville, Texas, where they breed and train horses used in cattle ranching. They were married before Tillerson began working at ExxonMobile in 1975. He is turning 65 this Thursday and originally had plans to retire to the ranch and spend time with his four children and his grandchildren.

He is now tasked with leading and carrying out American foreign policy around the world after a near 40-year career with one of the country's largest oil companies.

So far he has navigated his first official trip to meet with G20 foreign ministers in Bonn, Germany in mid February, a March trip to Asia where he shored up America's relationship with China, and a Trump budget that proposes to slash $10bn (£8bn) from his department.

Today (22 March) Tillerson will lead a meeting in Washington DC of foreign ministers and senior leaders of the 68-nation coalition working to defeat Isis. And on 12 April he will skip what would be his first meeting with the 28 Nato members to travel to Russia.

"I was supposed to retire in March, this month. I was going to go to the ranch to be with my grandkids," Tillerson told IJR. "My wife convinced me. She was right. I'm supposed to do this."

Renda St. Clair
US Secretary and his wife Renda St. Clair listen to Vice President Mike Pence in the Oval Office at the White House before he was sworn in in in Washington, DC Nicholas Kamm/AFP