Mike Pompeo (left) shakes hands with Don Pramudwinai during a press conference in Bangkok on Thursday. Jonathan Ernst/AFP
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted on Thursday that Washington was not asking Southeast Asian nations to "choose" between his country and rival power China, as he trailed a rebooted security and trade strategy at a Bangkok summit.
The denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, a bitter trade war between the superpowers and open access to contested seas dominated talks between Pompeo and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of a summit of Southeast Asia's top diplomats.
Pompeo is in Bangkok tasked with reassuring Asian allies that the US remains a key player in the region, as China builds up its military presence in disputed seas and airspace and cements its economic and political primacy across the region.
The rivalry between the two superpowers is framed by a trade war that has cramped global growth and seeded uncertainty across Asia's economies.
Pompeo and Wang shook hands and smiled before the brief talks.
Both later played down the rifts between their nations, with Wang describing the meeting as a "deep communication" that "has helped to increase our mutual understanding".
"There may be various kinds of issues and problems between China and the United States," he said.
"But no matter how many problems.. we all need to sit down and continue to communicate."
In a tweet Pompeo said he had "an in-depth exchange of views" with Wang -- including on North Korea -- adding "when it advances U.S. interests, we are ready to cooperate with China."
Pompeo also insisted the US was not prodding Southeast Asian nations to "choose between countries".
"Our engagement in this region has not been and will not be a zero-sum exercise," he said in short remarks at the opening of a meeting with the 10-member ASEAN states.
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