• Trump saluted a North Korean general, state media shows, an unusual act of respect

    By: USA Today

    Updated:

    President Trump saluted back at a North Korean general during his summit with Kim Jong Un this week, an unusual honor for an officer of a despotic regime. The salute, broadcast by North Korea's state media, came as Trump appeared to meet Kim's delegation in Singapore.

    The general, No Kwang Chol, returned Trump's offer of a handshake with a salute. Trump quickly mirrored the act of respect, the video shows, before the two then shook hands. Kim stood in the background, smiling. 

    A president saluting U.S. service members is not unheard of, even as former President Barack Obama once did with a cup of coffee. But it's unusual for presidents to salute foreign military members, NBC News notes.

    That would remain true for those of totalitarian states like North Korea, which has sent citizens to forced labor camps and made no concrete moves toward denuclearization.

    Some on social media decried Trump's gesture, claiming it gave North Korea's government more reason to claim legitimacy on the global stage. Others urged understanding, calling it a relatable snafu.

    "If someone salutes you, your instinct is (probably) to return that salute,' wrote Matt Lewis, a conservative columnist for The Daily Beast. "This is to say Trump wasn’t being malicious; he was being played. This is now N.K. propaganda — the result of an unprepared president."

    Trump once similarly critiqued Obama for an apparent bow to a Saudi king in 2009, calling him an "amateur." Trump himself later bowed before a Saudi king last year.

    Follow Josh Hafner on Twitter: @joshhafner

    More: Trump and Kim's handshake more historic than their words

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