'Alpha male' handshakes as Trump, Kim meet, but body language shows some nerves

'Alpha male' handshakes as Trump, Kim meet, but body language shows some nerves
PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - In their first moments of meeting each other, US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un both sought to project a sense of command but displayed some anxiety at the start of their high-stakes summit in Singapore.

Body language experts said that in the 13 seconds or so the US president held on to the hand of Kim for the first time, he projected his usual dominance by reaching out first, and patting the North Korean leader's shoulder.

Not to be outdone, Kim firmly pumped Trump's hand, looking him straight in the eye for the duration, before breaking off to face the media.

"It wasn't a straight-out handshake," said Allan Pease, an Australian body language expert and author of several books on the topic, including "The Definitive Guide to Body Language".

"It was up and down, there was an argy-bargy, each one was pulling the other closer. Each guy wasn't letting the other get a dominant grip," he told Reuters by telephone from Melbourne.

Trump and Kim are meeting in Singapore for historic talks aimed at finding a way to end a nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula. Should they succeed, it could bring lasting change to the security landscape of Northeast Asia, like the visit of former US President Richard Nixon to China in 1972 led to the transformation of China.

Ahead of the meeting, Trump had said he would be able to work out within the first minute whether his North Korean counterpart was serious about making peace.

Projecting authority comes easily to Trump, who as a global leader, businessman and former television personality is well-versed in using body language effectively. He also has a height advantage over Kim.

While both men walked to the library where they held their first face-to-face meeting, Trump sought to ease any tension in the air by chatting to Kim, and letting him walk slightly ahead.

Trump, however, maintained control over the chat by patting Kim, and using his hand to guide Kim, who is almost half his age, into the room.

Kim also patted Trump, in an attempt to assert control. He mainly looked down, listening, as Trump spoke, but did look up at several times during the conversation.

"Donald Trump was talking in conciliatory terms, almost submissive, but his body language was clearly saying 'I am in charge here'," Pease said.

"If you didn't know who these people were, you'd say the big guy was the father and the little guy is the son."

When Trump met Kim: A Singapore story

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    Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un made history Tuesday, becoming the first sitting US and North Korean leaders to meet and shake hands, as they seek to end a tense decades-old nuclear stand-off.

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    It was a meeting many would have thought unimaginable just months ago.

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    The two men strode toward each other and shared the momentous handshake beneath the white-washed walls of an upscale hotel in neutral Singapore, before sitting down for a half-day of meetings with major ramifications for the world.

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    Prior to the meeting held at Capella Hotel in Singapore's resort island of Sentosa, Trump had said that he would know "within the first minute", whether any agreement would be possible.

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    The watching world is not sure if it's the start of a beautiful, budding "bromance", but here's a look at how the world's most talked-about first date unfolded.

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    Their handshake reportedly lasted for 12 long seconds (though still 7 seconds shorter than his memorable handshake with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe).

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    Trump also reached out to touch the North Korean leader on his right shoulder.

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    According to a body language expert Karen Leong, the first 60 seconds showed both leaders seeking to take charge in their encounter. US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un both sought to project a sense of command. "Their handshake seems to be between peers," she said.

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    "Trump seemed to be very aware of this, that he needed to up the stakes and be seen that he is the leader."

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    Trump did most of the talking, and Kim appeared to listen attentively, turning to him three times during their walk toward their meeting room.

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    Trump did most of the talking, and Kim appeared to listen attentively, turning to him three times during their walk toward their meeting room.

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    The US President, who is more than twice Kim's age, then appeared to lead the way to the library where they held a one-on-one meeting, placing his hand on the North Korean leader's counterpart's back.

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    Kim also patted the US president' arm, in an attempt to show control over the encounter, said Leong.

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    The leaders appeared to share a few light-hearted moments as they walked down a corridor to the hotel's library.

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    However, Leong said both found it difficult to conceal their nervousness once they were seated, with Trump displaying a slanted smile, and fidgeting with his hands and Kim leaning and staring at the ground.

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    As they sat down for their one-on-one meeting, the US leader predicted a "terrific relationship" with Kim.

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    Mr Kim then said through a translator: “The way to come to here was not easy.The old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles on our way forward but we overcame all of them and we are here today.”

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    After their closed door one-on-one talks, the pair continued with explanded bilateral talks with their delegation. Trump was flanked by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton.

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    Sitting across the table from the US team were North Korean leader Kim, Kim Yong-chol, first vice department director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s central committee, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Ri Su-yong, Workers’ Party vice chairman on international affairs.

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    Thereafter, the two leaders attended a working lunch with their respective delegations at Capella Hotel.

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    On the lunch menu: Main courses include beef short rib confit, served with potato dauphinois and steamed broccoli; sweet and sour crispy pork and fried rice with an "XO" chilli sauce as well as a Korean dish called "daegu jorim", which is a soy braised cod fish with radish and Asian vegetables.

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    Post-lunch, Kim and Trump then went for a leisurely stroll around the hotel grounds.

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    He also said talks had gone "better than anybody could have expected", and indicated that they were heading for a "signing", but did not divulge any details of the agreement.

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    During their walk, Trump unexpectedly gave Kim a peek into his super limo, nicknamed "The Beast".

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    But they did not get to hop on to go for a joyride, as commentators had hoped.

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    The pair met to sign an agreement, details of which were not revealed during the signing. Trump said: "We're signing a very important document, pretty comprehensive document, and we've had a really great time together, a great relationship... More will be discussed at a press conference soon."

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    When asked what he learnt about Kim, Trump said that he is "a very talented man", and that "he loves his country very much".

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    Mr Trump also described Mr Kim as a "very worthy, very smart negotiator".

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    According to sources after the signing, the two leaders pledged to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, while Washington committed to provide security guarantees for its old enemy.

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    The signatures of US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un. Trump said he expected the denuclearization process to start "very, very quickly".

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    Kim places a hand on Trump's back as they leave the room after the signing.

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    After the signing, the pair walked out for another round of photo-taking.

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    Reports say Mr Kim departed Singapore on a chartered Air China flight at 11.20pm and midnight on Tuesday, while Trump left on Air Force One earlier at 6.25pm.

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    At 4pm, Trump held a press conference on the summit outcome and details on the agreement signed.

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    "We signed a joint statement that is an unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of North Korea," he says.

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    The Capella Hotel on Singapore's resort island of Sentosa, provided the backdrop for the historic summit.

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    Trump's motorcade arriving at Sentosa on Tuesday (June 12) morning.

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    Setting the stage ready for the handshake that will be seen across the world.

DESIRE FOR DOMINANCE

Karen Leong, Managing Director of Singapore-headquartered Influence Solutions, said Trump did not display any of the hostility seen at the G7 summit in Canada last week, during which the US leader blasted allies including the European Union and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over trade.

A photograph showing Trump sitting with his arms folded as German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks was seen as defining the acrimonious nature of those talks.

Still, Trump's desire was dominance was on display.

"Whenever they're shaking hands, you can see the whites of their fingertips - these two guys are alpha males," Leong said.

"They both want to show dominance and that is why there's this bone-crushing handshake."

However, Leong said both found it difficult to conceal their nervousness once they were seated, with Trump displaying a slanted smile, and fidgeting with his hands and Kim leaning and staring at the ground.

"Trump is a gambler and he's gambling on being able to rein in North Korea like a parent does to naughty child," Leong said. This contrasted with Kim, who had comparatively less to lose, having already scored a major win through Trump's agreement to meet him.

Kim's first major interaction with the international community also betrayed a sense of awe and wonder as he faced the rapid fire shutters of photographers in the opulence of the Singapore luxury hotel where the meeting took place.

"Kim looked a bit like a kid in a theme park: not intimidating, excited and a bit nervous," Pease added.

Kim Jong Un goes on night stroll on Singapore's waterfront

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    The usually closely-guarded North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke away from summit preparations Monday for a night-time stroll on the Singapore waterfront, even posing for selfies with the city-state's foreign minister.

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    The picture posted online by Vivian Balakrishnan as the group toured a series of major sites, less than 12 hours ahead of Kim's meeting with US President Donald Trump, is the first such public image of the North's leader.

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    In his own country, his appearances are normally carefully managed, with any foreigners present having to go through hours-long security checks beforehand.

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    Kim was spotted walking inside, with his sister and close aide Kim Yo Jong also part of the group.

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    "He said Singapore is clean and beautiful and every building is stylish as he heard of in the past, adding he is going to learn a lot from the good knowledge and experience of Singapore in various fields in the future," the KCNA report added.

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    At the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) hotel, casino and convention centre, Kim visited the high-level SkyPark that links the three 55-storey towers of the complex.

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