President George W Bush will leave a "strong and positive legacy" in Asia and his successor will maintain engagement in the region, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Saturday.
Gates told a high-level security forum in Singapore that any speculation that the United States was losing interest in the region was "preposterous."
"I think this will be an area where there will be a strong and positive legacy in the future," he told the forum, six months before the US presidential elections.
"Any speculation in the region about the United States losing interest in Asia strikes me as either preposterous, or disingenuous, or both," said Gates, who will visit Thailand and South Korea after Singapore.
Doubts have emerged among some allies over US leadership in the region even as rising power China continues its military build-up.
Describing the United States as a "resident power" in Asia with military bases and cooperation pacts with a web of partners, Gates said future US leaders will maintain Washington’s commitment to the region’s security.
"Any future US administration’s Asia security policy is going to be grounded in the fact that the United States remains a nation with strong and enduring interests in this region," he said at the Shangri-La Dialogue forum of defence and military officials and security experts.
Gates said there was a "significant improvement" in the US-Japanese and US-Indian relationship under Bush. He also cited the example of progress in communication with China.
The two sides recently established a "Defence Telephone Link" between the Pentagon and the Chinese defence minister, he said, addig the US also started with Beijing a series of dialogues on strategic issues.