U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday it was  “unfortunate” that China declined a request for Austin and his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu to meet as both attend the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

Speaking alongside Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada during a visit to Tokyo, Austin said he would welcome “any opportunity to engage with leadership” and that he believes defense departments should have open channels of communication.

Austin told reporters that countries with “significant capabilities” should talk to each other in order to manage crises and prevent situations from spiraling out of control.

The lack of a meeting between the U.S. and Chinese defense officials comes at a time of cool relations that has included the shooting down of a suspected Chinese spy balloon by the U.S., tensions about U.S. support for Taiwan, and what the United States called a Chinese fighter jet’s “unnecessarily aggressive” interception of a U.S. Air Force aircraft over the South China Sea this week.

Hamada told reporters that he and Austin agreed to closely cooperate on challenges posed by China and said it is important to keep a frank dialogue with the Chinese.

Hamada also said Japan and the United States would work closely with South Korea in a concerted effort against what he called North Korea’s provocative actions.

His comments came a day after the failure of a North Korea launch of a spy satellite. U.N. Security Council resolutions bar North Korea from using ballistic missile technology.

Austin called North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs “dangerous and destabilizing.” He said the United States will take all necessary measures to secure its homeland and defend its allies.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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