U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he could not meet with North Korean officials in Bangkok on the sidelines of an ASEAN summit that came just hours after North Korea's latest ballistic missile test.
Previous ASEAN meetings were an opportunity for talks between U.S. and North Korean officials. Pompeo said he hopes to resume diplomatic contacts soon.
Talks among ASEAN members are set to continue Friday in Bangkok.
Pompeo did hold talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, amid tensions between the world's two largest economies over trade and China's claim to large swaths of the South China Sea.
Wang said the discussions helped "increase our mutual understanding."
Washington has expressed concerns about Beijing growing military and economic presence in disputed areas in Southeast Asia. In Bangkok, Pompeo said the U.S. is not asking countries in the region to “choose” between the U.S. and China.
However, Pompeo appeared pleased that Cambodia"Refuted reports it is allowing a Chinese military installation to be built on its territory.
News reports had said an agreement earlier this year, would give China exclusive rights to parts of the Ream naval base, located near a large airport being built by China on the Gulf of Thailand.
Pompeo added, "The United States welcomes Cambodia's strong defense of its national sovereignty and we encourage other nations in the region to follow Cambodia's lead."
Professor Sophal Ear, an expert in diplomacy at Occidental College, told VOA’s Cambodian Service, “The Secretary of State has taken Phnom Penh's denials at face value but is coyly cornering the Phnom Penh authorities into committing to their denial. If evidence emerges that activity is in fact continuing, then Cambodia will have violated not only its own Constitution but also lose all credibility. "
He continued, "Phnom Penh wants to have it both ways; do what China wants and yet deny to the world anything is happening. Phnom Penh can't have it both ways,” he said, adding “I think other nations will think very carefully about any attempt to allow China to build a military installation on their soil. You've got Laos that's friendly to China, but it's landlocked, so no value in terms of the Chinese Navy there, unlike Cambodia.”
Speaking about the Mekong River, an area in which China has been investing in hydroelectric plants, Pompeo said all countries must have respect for national sovereignty and the rule of law.
Pompeo hosted a U.S.-ASEAN meeting Thursday with his counterparts in Bangkok, saying many of them share a vision for security, peace, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.
"For decades, American diplomacy with ASEAN has been consistently guided by our desire for a partnership of respect toward the sovereignty of each of our nations, a shared commitment to the fundamental rules of law, human rights, and sustainable economic growth," Pompeo said.