Gates: US will not disengage from Asia despite greater Mideast focus

The United States will not disengage from Asia despite growing political and military commitments in the Middle East, the US defense chief said Saturday. Defense Secretary Robert Gates also slammed Myanmar's ruling generals at a security summit in Singapore for costing "tens of thousands of lives" by thwarting the international community's attempts to help survivors of devastating Cyclone Nargis with relief aid. "For those who worry that Iraq and Afghanistan have distracted the United States from Asia and developments here, I would counter that we have never been more engaged with more (Asian) countries," Gates told the Shangri-La Dialogue. His comments were aimed at allaying fears by some in the region that US military and political commitments in the Middle East will pull it away from Asia, and that a weak American economy will leave the next US administration little time and inclination to strengthen ties to the region.