Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters is on his way back to New Zealand after talks with his Asia-Pacific counterparts, and a meeting with United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Peters left New Zealand overnight on Wednesday following the end of his stint as acting Prime Minister to take part in the East Asia Summit ministers meeting, the Asean regional forum and the Southwest Pacific Dialogue in Singapore.

"These meetings were an opportunity for all countries in the region to discuss the big issues confronting the Asia Pacific region, including North Korea, recent developments in the South China Sea, developments in Myanmar, and the importance of ensuring that trade disputes are managed in accordance with existing international rules," Peters said in a statement before his return.

"I had an excellent discussion with Secretary of State Pompeo covering a wide range of issues including recent developments on the Korean Peninsula, and issues of mutual interest in the bilateral relationship," he said.

He did not expand on what those issues of mutual interest are.

Peters also met the foreign ministers of Singapore, North Korea, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, East Timor, Cambodia, Iran, the Philippines, and Turkey.

"I had wide-ranging discussions with my Singaporean counterpart, and reviewed the strong progress officials were making on the negotiation for an enhanced partnership.

"I was also pleased to meet with my North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho,and to have a useful exchange of views on recent developments on the Korean Peninsula and future prospects," Peters said.

Before he left, Peters had reiterated the importance of New Zealand's relationship with the 10 countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

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"Asean is one New Zealand's most important trading relationships, and as close neighbours the member states are key partners in the region's security and stability.

"The region faces some serious challenges to its security and prosperity, including in the areas of nuclear proliferation, terrorism and cyber-security. These meetings are a chance to discuss how we address these challenges collectively.

"I will be stressing the importance of the rules-based international order in enhancing peace and prosperity."

China recently expressed its displeasure to New Zealand over the Government's new Strategic Defence Policy Statement.

The policy statement was unusually explicit for New Zealand in its criticism of China's military build-up in the South China Sea and also referred to China's activities in the Antarctic.

It also emphasised the need for New Zealand to stand ready to help its partners.

Peters, in a major foreign policy speech in June, also talked about the militarisation of the South China Seas without mentioning China, which was in keeping with the last Government's practice.

"We see some troubling developments. In the South China Sea, claimants in the various territorial disputes have acted in ways that challenge international law and norms."

Peters also included some guarded criticism of the United States, in an apparent reference to its need to uphold a rules-based order in international trade.

"Our emphasis on international law, inclusivity, economic integration, trade, and respect for sovereignty makes us a constructive regional partner for most states," Peters said.

New Zealand has been excluded from US exemptions on steel and aluminium tariffs.
US Ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown has said he is hopeful New Zealand will be included at some point.

US President Donald Trump last week signed off a law change that will allow New Zealand investors and entrepreneurs easier access to the US through visas.