Vice president Dan Quayle, leaving on a whirlwind trip to Australia and Southeast Asia, said Monday the United States intends to remain a Pacific power despite arguments by "declinists" that the nation "must pull back from our global commitments."

Rather, he told a meeting of The Associated Press, the challenge for the United States is to advance "our strategic and economic interest in Asia while maintaining our continuing commitments to Europe."He said that in the United States and its Pacific allies, there is an undercurrent of gloominess, with some observers - he did not name any - predicting a grim future for the United States.

"The United States, they say, is a nation in decline. The budget deficit and the trade deficit are symptoms of a deeper malaise. If we are to avoid disaster, we must pull back from our global commitments.

"In a nutshell, this is the argument of the so-called `declinists.' "

So, Quayle said, a top purpose of his trip "is to address these concerns head-on. I will be reminding our Asian friends that the current wave of declinist thought in the United States is hardly a new phenomenon."