John Key's tough talks with world leaders

John Key (Simon Wong/Newshub.)
John Key (Simon Wong/Newshub.)

Prime Minister John Key is attending the East Asian Summit in Laos, where he's faced some tough conversations with world leaders.

Mr Key has just sat down with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, in a wide-ranging discussion including Syria, and former NZ PM Helen Clark's bid to become the next United Nations Secretary-General.

Mr Medvedev earlier warned Mr Key he was in for "a tough conversation" around Miss Clark.

Russia firmly believes an Eastern European candidate, as per the rotation system, is best placed for the job but Mr Key disagrees.

"I said, not really as long as you remember these two words 'Helen Clark' you'll be fine. So we'll have a chat to him and see how it goes," Mr Key said.

"I think we won't be holding our punches but it will be done in the right way and in the right manner."

Earlier Mr Key indicated it might be "game on" with Russia if the Eastern European candidates were to drop out of the race, opening the door for Miss Clark to be selected by the permanent five members as a compromise candidate.

When the pair did meet Mr Key indicated he wanted to talk about a number of things, including Syria.

"Obviously there's some wide ranging issues to discuss but we're interested in your take on the situation in Syria given we are in the presidency of the Security Council this month," Mr Key told Mr Medvedev.

Mr Key's meeting with the Russian leader came after a meeting with Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith where Mr Key pledged NZ$11.5 million and a trial of New Zealand technology to continue work clearing millions of Vietnam War era unexploded ordnances from Laos.

The announcement and the signing of an Air Services Agreement between the two nations kicked off a busy day for Mr Key, who is also scheduled to meet with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, a visit to an unexploded ordnance facility to see how the New Zealand funds will be spent, and the East Asia Summit.

US President Barack Obama cancelled his meeting with the Philippines leader after he called him the "son of a whore" but Mr Key said he didn't feel that was reason enough to cancel his own meeting.

At the afternoon's Summit, Mr Key indicated he would be pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership on the agenda, something he expected Mr Obama would also be keen to discuss.

On Wednesday he believed tensions on the Korean peninsula would dominate talks, raising the "unpredictability" of "lone wolf" Kim Jong-un and recent and increasing nuclear weapons testing.

But after having the chance to chat with leaders at Wednesday night's gala dinner Mr Key said he expected the South China would remain a big issue.

The gala conversations weren't all political, with some leaders taking the opportunity to celebrate their nations' success over the Kiwis at the Olympics.

"(I was) taking a hard time from the Japanese Prime Minister about how the Mighty Blossoms beat the All Blacks and from the Australian Prime Minister that our girls lost in the final," Mr Key said.

Mr Key and the New Zealand delegation will end the day flying to Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia ahead of the Pacific Islands Forum.