Trump draws criticism after saluting North Korean general
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Trump draws criticism after saluting North Korean general

US President Donald Trump has drawn criticism for returning a salute to a North Korean military general during Tuesday’s summit. The action has been viewed as an extraordinary display of respect from a US president to a top officer of a hostile regime.

The newly released video footage aired on North Korean state television on Thursday, as part of its first video package from the historic Singapore summit.

The video shows a confused interaction in which Trump goes to shake General No Kwang Chol’s hand as the senior military man salutes. Trump then salutes as the general extends his hand for a shake.

In the military, returning a salute from a military officer of a friendly foreign nation is common practice for US military officers and considered a display of military professionalism. There is no rule that a US president is obliged to return a salute, which is considered a sign of mutual respect.

The incident occurred at the Capella hotel in Singapore where Trump became the first sitting US president to meet with a leader of the North Korean regime.

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After the initial handshake between the two leaders, Kim and Trump entered the hotel to meet each other’s respective negotiating teams.

The White House responded saying Trump’s salute was simply a common courtesy and done with the end goal of the day in mind. However, a US official told CNN that Trump was briefed on protocol, which is to not salute military officers from other countries.

Critics have said the footage will provide as effective propaganda for Kim’s regime back home in North Korea.

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Bilateral meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Singapore Summit, June 12, 2018. Source: Kevin Lim/The Straits Times

“They can see a propaganda value here and this is basically them showing the level of deference and respect that Trump has paid to them and to their military leaders,” John Kirby, a military and diplomatic analyst, told CNN.

“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.”

Since the summit, Trump has declared that he developed a “special bond” with Kim and insisted North Korea has pledged to get rid of his nuclear weapons programme.

On Wednesday, he tweeted that North Korea was “no longer a nuclear threat.”