In the wake of the summit meeting in Singapore this week that brought together President Donald Trump and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-un, the North Korean government media released a video that showed highlights of diplomatic meeting. Footage showed that the president returned a salute to a North Korean general during the summit.

It was after Trump and Kim had walked down a colonnade to shake hands, that they entered a room where they met various members of Kim's delegation, as seen in a video released by North Korean broadcaster KCTV news. The video showed that Trump shook hands with members of the delegation. When he encounters the uniformed North Korean Gen. No Kwang Chol, Trump at first extended his hand, to which the general responded with a salute. Trump returned the salute, extended his hand, and the two men shook hands.

After liberal media was aghast at what was understood to be a gaffe on Trump’s part, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said at the Thursday press briefing that Trump was extending a "common courtesy." She told CNN’s Jim Acosta, "It's a common courtesy when a military official from another government salutes, that you return that." 

According to CNN, Rear Adm. John Kirby (ret.) said that Trump’s choice of greeting was “striking." He told Poppy Harlow on CNN that North Korea scored a propaganda victory from the salute for the “deference and respect that Trump has paid to them and to their military leaders." Kirby added, "It was an inappropriate for him to do from a protocol perspective, but now he's played right into the North's propaganda about their legitimacy on the world stage." 

Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton (ret.), who served in the Iraq war and currently advises a progressive think tank, said the North Koreans did not deserve a salute. 

Military salutes by American salutes is a relatively new phenomenon, and may date to Ronald Reagan’s term in office. According to military protocol, it is customary within the American military to salute officers of friendly foreign nations. 

When contacted by Spero News, protocol expert Pamela Eyring wrote in an email that she reviewed the footage in question. She noted, “President Trump extended his hand first to the General offering a handshake greeting which is correct.  When the foreign officer did not offer his hand in return but saluted instead, President Trump returned the salute which was his option.” Eyring noted that while North Korea is not considered a “friendly” power, “the purpose of the meeting was to establish a starting relationship in order to reach diplomatic objectives.” She agreed with White House press secretary Sanders that the president showed  “‘courtesy’” similar to shaking hands whether or not he ‘respects’ the individual, their military or country.” 

Eyring went on to say that the North Korean may have been rude by waiting waiting until the president offered his hand and “then saluting.” She ended by saying “the General should have saluted quicker! “ Eyring is the president of the Protocol School of Washington. As an expert on etiquette, protocol and networking, she provides seminars in the United States and internationally. She was once chief of military protocol at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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