New Zealand and the United States appear to be planning to collaborate on a regional initiative to be announced in the coming days.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters had a mystery meeting with United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson yesterday, but emerged tight-lipped.

It is thought, however, that Tillerson was giving New Zealand a heads up on a major statement expected from the White House early on Thursday morning, NZ Time.

Peters told media at the East Asia Summit: "I can't tell you about the details of it."

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"Tillerson called, and he wants New Zealand to be engaged in something and we hope to be able to tell you something about it in the next few days," he said.

The meeting was believed to discuss "initiatives coming in the future". Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had also been advised.


Meanwhile Ardern had a 20-minute meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Manila last night about expediting Manus Island refugees to settle in New Zealand.

She also said the Government would give up to $3 million from the Overseas Development Assistance budget to help Papua New Guinea with the costs of keeping the asylum seekers, in conjunction with an agency such as the Red Cross.

She said the upshot of the meeting with Turnbull was that if Australia agreed to take up New Zealand's offer to resettle 150 of the refugees, the process would be speeded up.

"New Zealand's offer remains on the table," she told New Zealand reporters in Manila covering the East Asia Summit attended by herself and Turnbull.

"It remains on the table because the need remains. We believe we have a role to play as members of the international community but also as neighbours to Australia to offer our support in finding resolution to this situation."

New Zealand official would continue to work closely with Australian officials "so that we are prepared in the instance that Australia will take up that offer."

"That is more progress that we have had on the offer in a number of years."

She said it would take some months for the refugees to be processed "so working together now and early is important so that we are prepared if and when Australia takes up that offer."

Australia is also working with the United States on a commitment to take up to 1250 of the asylum seekers - who are processed offshore as part of Australian policy to deter mass arrivals by sea.

Ardern seemed annoyed that New Zealand media have previously described Turnbull's attitude to her bid for a meeting with him variously as a brush off, a snub or having been blanked.

But she had signalled with Malcolm Turnbull in Vietnam that she wanted a "substantive" meeting in Manila to talk further about New Zealand's offer to take 150 - and until last night said she had only had conversations "in passing."

They had ashamed their official from that meeting to talk further on the matter.

Ardern's offer is more likely than that of former Prime Minister John Key's' to be taken up because she is raising no objections to Australia blocking the refugees from using New Zealand as a backdoor entry to Australia.

She said what Australia did at its border was a matter for Australia.