US President Donald Trump, known for his long and at times aggressive handshakes with world leaders, grimaced as he tried to figure out how it is done during the opening of the 31st ASEAN Leaders’ Summit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines yesterday morning. AP/Andrew Harnik

ASEAN handshake stumps Trump
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - November 13, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — A special handshake of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) proved complicated yesterday for the leader of the world’s lone superpower.

The “handshake diplomacy” of US President Donald Trump wavered as he faced the interlinked handshake that has become a trademark of the ASEAN.

Trump, known for his long and at times aggressive handshakes with world leaders, grimaced as he tried to figure out how it is done during the opening of the 31st ASEAN Leaders’ Summit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines yesterday morning.

When the announcer declared that it was time for the leaders to take part in the “traditional” ASEAN handshake – a cross-body exercise during which each leader extends the right arm over left and shakes the opposite hands of those next to him – the American President was briefly baffled.

At first, Trump simply crossed his hands in front of him. Then, looking around, he turned to the leaders that flanked him – Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to his right and President Duterte to his left – and simply extended his arms outward, only to find that wasn’t quite right either.

Then he laughed, crossed his arms and reached to the correct sides. He grimaced at first, particularly when bending down to reach the hands of the two shorter leaders next to him.

And then, with an exaggerated smile, he vigorously gripped their hands.

Handshakes have become a Trump trademark in his first year in office. He often pulls the other person toward him and pats or yanks the hand in a sign meant to set a tone for the meeting ahead.

In addition to Trump, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also struggled with the handshake, failing to assume the cross-body pose and ended up simply holding the hands of the leaders flanking him.

In addition to Trump, European Council President Donald Tusk of the European Union also struggled with the handshake, failing to assume the cross-body pose and ended up simply holding the hands of the leaders flanking him.

There was confusion further down the line too, as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took a while to sort out which hands go where. With Trudeau holding on to Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah to his left, he found he could not reach Lee’s hand, as the Singapore leader crossed over to grasp Turnbull’s hand.

On Twitter, Trump appeared to have realized his mistake when he wrote “Phillipines” in one tweet.

“Just landed in the Philippines after a great day of meetings and events in Hanoi, Vietnam!” he said late Sunday.

“We had a wonderful visit to Vietnam, thank you President Tran Dai Quang! Heading to the #ASEANSummit 50th Anniv Gala in the Philippines now,” he added.

Trump is in the country to attend the summit of leaders of ASEAN and its dialogue partners.

He also held a bilateral meeting with Duterte yesterday.

Honeylet plays host

Duterte’s partner Honeylet Avanceña played host to spouses of ASEAN leaders, handing each a box of the renowned Malagos chocolates as personal token.

Among those who attended the tour at the Little Theater lobby of the Cultural Center of the Philippines were the respective wives of Singapore’s Lee, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

US First Lady Melania Trump returned to the US after accompanying Trump in Japan, South Korea and China, skipping the last two legs of his Asia swing in Vietnam and the Philippines.

Yesterday morning, the first ladies toured the “ASEAN at 50: Power as Flow” exhibit at the CCP and viewed the artifacts, images and texts that featured the history of the Southeast Asian peoples. The exhibit will be opened to the public when the ASEAN summit ends this week.

After the guided tour, they were treated to a four-course Filipino lunch, prepared by executive chef Konrad Walter, at the Manila Hotel.

They were served pitik lobster-pomelo cocktail in Palawan honey-calamansi dressing; cream of malunggay soup and grouper fillet in lemon grass panko crust set on native pechay, calamansi kutsay cream sauce and organic upland rice.

They also had maja con latik, jackfruit-banana purse and pan-fried suman for dessert.

Avanceña later handed them boxes of Malagos chocolates from Duterte’s hometown Davao. – Helen Flores, AP

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