With just six days to go before a historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is to take place in Singapore, members of the 30,000-strong American community here are somewhat muted about its prospects for peace.
Those whom Yahoo News Singapore spoke to even expressed doubts as to whether the meeting would actually take place as scheduled on 12 June. After the summit had been scheduled, Trump abruptly called it off on 24 May before announcing it was back on more than a week later.
Teacher and Alabama native Kelly Wright, 30, has been based here for the past six years and is married to a Singaporean. “For me, it’s kind of bringing the circus to Singapore,” said Wright, who has been following the progress of the summit negotiations closely.
“Both leaders, they are trying to play games. It kind of makes me feel, what would they even discuss? And why now? Why is Kim willing to speak to Trump? Trump really creates a lot of controversy, which I feel is not really the best way to handle situations…he creates problems using Twitter and he does the same with international issues.”
Wright, a mother of one, is more concerned with how Singapore will be portrayed by the US media. “Where I’m from in the US, a lot of people…think I live in China. I think it will educate Americans on where Singapore is.”
Researcher Martha Isaacs, 22, has strong views on both Trump and Kim. “These are two men that I don’t respect. Both are rude, cocky, patriarchal, so maybe that’s why they hit it off. I think Trump has been one of the worst, if not the worst, international statesmen that the US has ever seen.”
The native of Baltimore, Maryland does see the logic of holding the “historic geopolitical event” on our shores. “Singapore is a safe venue and very pro-business and pro-capitalist, which is something that Trump agrees with.”
She added, “My American friends are just kind of upset because they tried to escape Trump, and now here he is.”
A polarising figure
Other Americans based in Singapore are somewhat more optimistic. California native Joe, who only wished to be known by his first name, felt that Trump deserves credit for being the first sitting US president to have a face-to-face meeting with a leader from North Korea.
The 52-year-old, who works in sales operations, noted, “We’ve been at each others’ throats for years. Nothing’s progressed in this relationship for years even though we’ve tried. If Trump walks out with just the framework of a denuclearisation deal, then I think that’s a win.”
On Singapore hosting the summit, Joe added, “I don’t know of a better nation to have it in.”
For Chris Meyerer, 33, who works in the insurance industry, he is reserving judgement on Trump’s effectiveness as an international statesman until the end of his term. “He certainly has an unorthodox style which throws people off but I do not think he is absolutely crazy and in fact I think he is a fairly clever individual. He has made some unexpected moves so far, so I am curious to see how it all pans out in the end.”
Meyerer, who is from New York, added, “I think (the summit) has the potential to be a stepping stone to something historic. But both leaders have a track record of being fairly unpredictable in their demeanour and their actions so I think it is anybody’s guess whether anything tangible will be gained from the summit.”
While marketing executive Janet Maurillo, 52, openly admits that she is “not wild” about Trump, she is personally hopeful that “something forward-thinking and positive” will come out of the meeting.
“We have a lot of questions about, is it actually going to happen, is the president going to behave in a professional and diplomatic manner,” said the mother of two, who has spent most of her adult life in New York.
“My knee-jerk reaction is, I don’t think he’s a polished statesman. Trump appears to have a seat-of-the-pants approach to diplomacy. Maybe he’s crazy like a fox, but he seems to be saying what’s in his mind without a filter. Maybe he says these things on purpose.”
Maurillo added, “I think part of the mystery is: how is Kim Jong-un going to respond? Maybe there will be a meeting of the minds.”