President Trump Caught Off-Guard By 'ASEAN-Way Handshake'

Nov 13, 2017
Originally published on November 13, 2017 8:45 am

As handshake diplomacy goes, this time it might not be quite as awkward as it first appears for President Trump: In photos with Asian leaders at a summit in the Philippines, he is momentarily caught off-guard by what is called the 'ASEAN-way handshake' – crossed arms and joined arms meant to signify regional unity.

An Associated Press photographer captures the moment the president, with a pained grimace, joins hands on either side with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on one side and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on the other at a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Manila.

But, as with the story of Trump and the koi pond in Japan last week, the picture is more damning than the video. (And, to be sure, in the most recent footage from the Philippines, a bespectacled Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also seems to struggle some with ASEAN-concept handshake).

You can watch the video here.

For Trump, however, it feeds into the handshake narrative: After all, who could forget that time with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House as she tries and fails to get the president to shake hands for the camera? The awkwardly assertive "grip and grin" with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe? Or the hand-to-hand duels between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, here and here?

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