Foreign ministers from 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) and their key dialogue and strategic partners met in Bangkok on Friday for the 9th East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, which is part of the 52nd ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in Bangkok, Thailand.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended the EAS meeting. His participation served as an assurance of U.S. presence, support, and influence in the Asia-Pacific region. Also attending the meeting was Pompeo’s counterpart, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Meeting Chairman Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said in his opening statement that the EAS’s goal is to promote “peace, stability and economic prosperity in East Asia for the benefits of this region’s people.”||bf8e15c7f__

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“We fully support the EAS in playing its constructive role as the premier leaders’ platform for dialogue and cooperation on broad strategic, political, and economic issues of common concern and interest,” said Pramudwinai.

Although the East Asia Summit takes place on the sidelines of the annual ASEAN summit, the EAS plays a significant role in fostering closer regional cooperation.

EAS Membership has expanded to 18 countries, including the United States and Russia. It is the only leader-led platform to confer political, security, and economic challenges facing the Asia-Pacific region.

During his Asian trip, the U.S. Secretary of State had the opportunity to meet and exchange views with many of his counterparts from the Asia-Pacific region.

Pompeo met the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday ahead of the Asian security meeting being held this week.

On the sidelines of the summit, Pompeo met with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha on Friday. Earlier he met India’s Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

Pompeo also convened with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, in an attempt to help to mollify a trade dispute between the two U.S. allies.

Kang criticized Tokyo’s decision to remove South Korea from a “whitelist” of countries with preferential trade status. Kang said South Korea is “gravely concerned” by Japan’s decision since it counters the region’s goal of increasing freer flow of trade and commerce.

However, Kono said Japan’s move was legitimate and that it was Japan’s right to maintain effective export control over sensitive goods and technology from a security standpoint.

He said that Japan’s move conformed to free trade rules and that South Korea would still enjoy preferred status on par with ASEAN nations.

During the meeting, Pompeo and other foreign ministers walked on stage to line up for a group photo. The leaders smiled, crossed arms, and held each other’s hands as a gesture of solidarity.