Relations between the US and Singapore have never been better. When US President George W. Bush visits a country, there is usually a detailed agenda of discussions and negotiations, whether economic or geopolitical. The world's most powerful man has a tight schedule and does not waste time. In the last 10 days, while in Japan, he discussed the government's repeated intervention to stem the yen's surge against the US dollar, arguing for exchange flexibility. In the Philippines, he discussed the fight against terrorism and promised more American help, and in Thailand, he agreed to start talks on a free-trade agreement. So it was quite telling that during this whirlwind tour of the Asia-Pacific region, he still found 15 hours, including a night stopover, to spend in Singapore when, seemingly, there was nothing to discuss with Singapore's Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, especially as they had just met for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Bangkok. Mr Bush had already met Mr Goh in Washington earlier this year to sign the free-trade agreement between the two countries, the first for the US in Asia. Indeed, the American press corps travelling with Mr Bush had been briefed that the Singapore leg would be a 'non-news' item, with no major announcements. So why the stopover? From the start, it was clear that the US wanted to publicly thank its close ally for its strong show of support in the war on terror. Singapore's fight against terrorism has been very successful, with its intelligence services foiling several planned attacks on US targets here. When the US-led conflict started in Iraq, Singapore was one of the first to offer strong verbal support, and it also gave access to US warships and aircraft. And while many countries are still procrastinating over participating in the post-war rebuilding effort, Singapore has sent a small squad of police officers to Baghdad to help train local policemen. But Singapore's support for the war on Iraq is only one piece in the jigsaw of its geostrategic importance in the region. The city state's economic success and strong, smooth political leadership makes it an influential voice in Asia. Whether in the war against terrorism or the push towards further trade liberalisation, the two topics at the heart of this year's Apec meeting, Singapore has led from the front. It is certainly perceived by the Bush administration as carrying a certain clout within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which will help the Bush agenda in Asia. During the meeting, Mr Bush praised Mr Goh as a 'wise man', who knew Southeast Asia well, adding that he 'valued his advice'. Although there were no major announcements, an even closer relationship is now in the offing, especially on security-related matters; even though Singapore will not allow US troops to be based here. The city state has also agreed to participate further in the rebuilding of Iraq by sending a military contingent of transport planes and ships next week.