US President Donald Trump captured in awkward cross-body handshake at ASEAN summit
Monday - 13/11/2017 09:26
DONALD Trump has been caught in one of the most unusual moments of his presidency so far during a ‘family’ photo at the start of a regional summit.
DONALD Trump has been caught in one of the most awkward moments of his presidency so far during a ‘family’ photo at the start of a regional summit in the Philippines.
President Trump was left confused by a communal handshake that took place between some of the world’s most powerful leaders during the opening ceremony of the 31st Association of South East Asian Nations in November.
President Trump looked slightly ill at ease at first but then appeared to enjoy himself during the unusual handshake with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
It provided a lighthearted introduction to the ASEAN meeting where rogue state North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-un, Philippines’ bloody drug war and its fight against ISIS is set to be high on the agenda.
President Trump is winding down his lengthy Asian trip at the international summit and a trio of meetings with Pacific Rim allies.
The opening ceremony began with pageantry before the summit’s traditional handshake.
The cross-body shake, during which each leader shakes the opposite hands of those next to him, briefly baffled Mr Trump, who then laughed as he figured out where to place his arms.
One of the leaders on his flank was President Duterte, who has overseen a bloody drug war that has featured extrajudicial killings.
The two men are also slated to hold longer, formal talks later today and White House aides signalled that Mr Trump is not expected to publicly bring up human rights in their discussions.
Mr Trump will also meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, which plays a key role in the U.S. vision of an Indo-Pacific region that attempts to de- emphasise China’s influence.
The handshake brought back memories of earlier awkward exchanges between Mr Trump and his presidential predecessor Barack Obama and with Prime Minister Turnbull following their controversial phone call.
Riot police used water cannon and sonic alarms to repel hundreds of protesters shouting anti-Trump slogans on the sidelines of the summit.
Colourful effigies of the US president, including one with four arms in the shape of a Nazi swastika, were carried through the streets of the Philippine capital.
A likeness of President Duterte peeked out from behind the figure, as the two leaders sat down for formal talks less than three kilometres away.
Protesters carried placards that read “Trump Go Home” and “Ban Trump #1 terrorist”. Police said there were nearly 2,000 people at the rallies.
Rights groups have called on Trump to speak out over Duterte’s drugs war, which has seen police and suspected vigilantes kill thousands of people during his 16 months in power.
But the one-time property magnate, who is on the final stop of a tour of Asia, has so far shown nothing but warmth for a strongman leader who has boasted of personally killing people. .
Mr Trump also spoke about trade and the menace of North Korea with Australian Prime Mnister Malcolm Turnbull in a three-way chat with Japanese leader Shinzo Abe. The trio caught up on the sidelines of the summit, after Mr Turnbull’s one-on-one meeting with Trump was cancelled.
Trump raved about his accomplishments on his five-nation journey, including on trade and North Korea, but said he would wait until his return to Washington on Wednesday to elaborate with a “major statement.”
“We’ve made some very big steps with regard to trade — far bigger than anything you know,” Trump told reporters at the beginning of the meeting in Manila, touting business deals forged between US and foreign companies.
‘AMBIGUITY ON RUSSIAN INVOLVEMENT’
Mr Trump’s discussions will largely centre on trade and North Korea but he remains dogged by things he has said, and not said, about Russia.
He tried to have it both ways on the issue of Russian interference in last year’s presidential race, saying he believes both the U.S. intelligence agencies when they say Russia meddled and Putin’s sincerity in claiming that his country did not.
“I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election,” Mr Trump said Sunday in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“As to whether I believe it, I’m with our agencies,.
“As currently led by fine people, I believe very much in our intelligence agencies.”
But just a day earlier, he had lashed out at the former heads of the U.S. intelligence agencies, dismissing them as “political hacks” and claiming there were plenty of reasons to be suspicious of their findings that Russia meddled to help Mr Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Former CIA director John Brennan, appearing Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” with former national intelligence director James Clapper, said Trump was deriding them in an attempt to “delegitimize” the intelligence community’s assessment.
“I think Mr. Putin is very clever in terms of playing to Mr. Trump’s interest in being flattered. And also I think Mr. Trump is, for whatever reason, either intimidated by Mr. Putin, afraid of what he could do or what might come out as a result of these investigations,” Brennan said.
Clapper called the threat from Russia “manifest and obvious.”
“To try to paint it in any other way is, I think, astounding and, in fact, poses a peril to this country,” he said on CNN.
Brennan said Mr Trump’s ambiguity on Russia’s involvement was “very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint.”
“I think he’s giving Putin a pass and I think it demonstrates to Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and play upon his insecurities,” Brennan said.
Questions about whether Trump believes the assessment about Russian election- meddling have trailed him since January, when he said for the first time, shortly before taking office, that he accepted that Russia was behind the election-year hacking of Democrats that roiled the White House race.
A special counsel’s examination of potential collusion between Moscow and Trump campaign aides so far has led to indictments against Trump’s former campaign chairman and another top aide for crimes unrelated to the campaign, and a guilty plea from a Trump foreign policy adviser for lying to the FBI. Multiple congressional committees are also investigating.
Trump told reporters travelling with him to Hanoi on Saturday that Putin had again vehemently denied the allegations. The two spoke during an economic conference in Danang, Vietnam. Trump danced around questions about whether he believed Putin but stressed Putin’s denials.
“Every time he sees me, he says: ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe - I really believe - that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump said, arguing that it makes no sense for him to belabour the issue when Russia could help the U.S. on North Korea, Syria and other issues.
Trump was originally slated to depart Manila for Washington on Monday. He added a day to the schedule amid criticism that he would have missed the final summit.