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Trump-Kim summit

Propaganda or common courtesy? White House defends Donald Trump saluting North Korean general

The interaction prompted disbelief among some Trump critics, who already have said the president appeared too accommodating to Kim Jong-un and his regime

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 June, 2018, 11:24am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 June, 2018, 9:06pm

The White House on Thursday defended President Donald Trump’s decision to return a military salute to a North Korean three-star general.

“It’s a common courtesy when a military official from another government salutes, that you return that,” presidential spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters two days after Trump returned from his summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

North Korean state media released video from the visit of Trump reaching out to shake the hand of the minister of the People’s Armed Forces, who instead saluted during the summit in Singapore. The two then reversed gestures, with Trump saluting and the general reaching out to shake hands. The two eventually shook hands.

The awkward moment raised some eyebrows because the US and North Korea technically are still at war.

“I have never seen an American president salute an officer of another military, let alone a military that acts as a brutal enforcer of human slavery and awful prison camps in a gulag across its nation,” said James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral who served as the top Nato commander. “It was a mistake.”

The interaction prompted disbelief among some Trump critics, who already have said the president appeared too accommodating to Kim and his autocratic regime, which is accused of gross human rights violations.

“To no one’s surprise, North Korea used our President for their propaganda campaign,” Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen said on Twitter. “Kim Jong Un is pocketing immediate concessions and not making any concrete commitments. Nauseating to see Trump stiff our allies in Canada and then praise Kim while saluting his generals.”

The protocol on how American presidents should meet foreign leaders is murky. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Trump went after President Barack Obama for bowing to the Saudi king, tweeting: “@BarackObama bowed to the Saudi King in public – yet the Dems are questioning @MittRomney’s diplomatic skills.”

Obama also took some grief in 2014 for saluting with a coffee cup in his hand as he stepped off Marine One in New York. The “latte salute,” had its own hashtag on Twitter.