In response to the recent historic political summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un, North Korea has released its own footage of the encounter with one scene showing Trump awkwardly saluting a North Korean military officer.
In the footage aired by North Korea’s state-run television network, President Trump and one of Kim Jong-Un’s leading generals are seen briefly struggling to agree on a form of greeting. As Mr Trump prompted a handshake, No Kwang-chol, the Minister of the People’s Armed Forces of North Korea, instead salutes the US president.
Mr Trump quickly returns the salute to General No, who began gesturing for a handshake at the same time. After some brief awkward looks, they finally get their handshake out of the way.
However, what might seem like a brief moment of awkward formalities has been seized upon by President Trump’s detractors who view returning a salute to a top general of an authoritarian dictatorship as a step too far. North Korea has a long history of abuses to human rights under its belt and is rumoured to run concentration camps for political prisoners.
Experts on North Korea have weighed in on Trump’s decision to return the salute as giving North Korea a small victory by having the leader of the free world defer to their military. A North Korean scholar, Jean H Lee, has said that this moment would be “treated as a military victory” in North Korea.
Trump’s critics believe he has played too friendly with Kim Jong-Un and his regime over the course of the historic summit which ended in a relatively weak agreement between the two nuclear powers. With this moment aired on North Korean state TV, it is viewed by some as legitimising North Korea’s military and by extension it’s authoritarian regime.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said that the President was simply displaying “common courtesy”.