What Kim-Trump's handshake reveals about historic meeting in Singapore

Donald Trump held the “upper hand” in his historic handshake with Kim Jong-un, according to an expert in languages and linguistics.

The two men strode toward each other and shared their first 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.

They shook hands for several seconds, Trump reaching out to touch the North Korean leader on his right shoulder.

Professor John Hajek from the University of Melbourne’s School of Languages and Linguistics said the US President was “doing all the talking” and had the “upper hand” when the two met for their historic meeting.

Donald Trump shakes hands with Kim Jong-un at their historic meeting in Singapore. Source: AP

“It’s interesting because we believe Kim speaks English – he was educated in Switzerland and speaks German, but Trump seems to be the only one talking during their bit of chit chat,” Professor Hajek told Yahoo.

“When Trump touches Kim’s arm during the handshake, that’s a sign of empathy. There’s nothing spontaneous about it either. It’s all planned. The idea is to gain sympathy. It’s effective and can lead to a positive response.”

Professor Hajek added Trump showed his experience in front of the TV cameras during the initial meeting. He’s seen ushering Kim into a meeting room.

The North Korean leader and Trump appeared nervous when they sat down according to a body language expert. Source: AP

He said this was again a “subtle gesture” from Trump to gain sympathy, with gentle touches to the North Korean’s shoulder and back. He noted Trump “squeezes it slightly”.

“This is Trump’s natural setting – he’s used to being in front of TV cameras while this might not be so natural for Kim,” he said.

“Trump clearly has the upper hand here because the media in North Korea is so tightly controlled. You can see this when he touches him on the back and directs him to leave to the room.”

Professor Hajek’s thoughts on the meeting were echoed by body language expert Karen Leong, managing director of Singapore-headquartered Influence Solutions.

“Their handshake seems to be between peers,” she said.

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

Trump did most of the talking, and the North Korean leader appeared to listen attentively, turning to him three times during their walk toward their meeting room. But he also patted the US president’s arm, in an attempt to show control over the encounter. 

Ms Leong added 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.

With Reuters