SINGAPORE, June 2 (UPI) -- Better relations with the United States are being sought by many nations whatever the problems or controversies, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.
Speaking to reporters aboard his plane en route to Singapore, the soon-to-retire Gates said since taking office during the Bush administration he has been struck by the fact that "despite all the controversies in recent years ... there has been very broad interest on the part of many countries to strengthen the relationship with the United States and have a stronger partnership with the United States."
Gates traveled to Singapore to attend his fifth and final Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual Asian security meeting. World leaders he was scheduled to meet include those from China.
Gates said the U.S. military has made extraordinary progress in strengthening military-to-military ties with Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, and also with traditional allies, Australia, Thailand, Japan and South Korea.
He said while such relationship with China has encountered rough times, it remains on track, adding it needs more time to grow.
"We need more of what's always in short supply when it comes to the United States and its government -- and that is patience," Gates said. "Relationships take time to develop, and we get very impatient because our timelines are always short."
The BBC quoted Gates as saying the United States is not trying "to hold China down," adding China is a global power and will remain so.