US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has twice sought out Foreign Minister Winston Peters to discuss a mystery project about the Asia-Pacific region, expected to be announced soon.

The mystery prompted speculation that the special project involved North Korea, which Peters visited during his last stint as Foreign Minister and has spoken about since, saying he did not believe it was a hopeless cause.

However, the Herald understands it does not relate to North Korea.

Peters has met with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson twice in recent days on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Manila, but early this morning would not be drawn on the details.

"I can't tell you about the details of it," Peters said after the meeting.


"It's to do with this region and initiatives coming in the future but it would be remiss of me - the Prime Minister has been fully informed of it - to divulge what it was about until we know."

A tweet by US President Donald Trump is fuelling speculation that the meeting had something to do with a major forthcoming announcement. Before boarding Air Force One back to the US, Trump tweeted: "I will be making a major statement from the @WhiteHouse upon my return to D.C. Time and date to be set."

Tillerson called Peters to request the first meeting, and they held a second one yesterday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was equally reluctant to talk about the meeting.

"One would be unwise to predict the nature of any of President Trump's tweets," she said.

Tillerson and Peters were seated next to each other at a gala dinner earlier this week, and later chatted over a glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

In his first press conference as Foreign Minister this month, Peters said: "We do not think that North Korea is an utterly hopeless case.

"We do not think for example that China is the reason why. We need to better understand that region and make our contribution. Albeit as a small country, but as an informed one."

Peters visited North Korea in 2007 during his last stint as Foreign Minister. He was part of a group trying to persuade the country to abandon its nuclear development programme in exchange for substantial economic development aid.

"We didn't succeed, but it was worth trying. We did though funnily enough get some success and ensured that 97,000 birds that transit North Korea to New Zealand - to Miranda - continue to get safe harbour because of those efforts. It was an unusual outcome, but maybe we can shoot higher this time and might possibly be successful."