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BODY LANGUAGE

The sharp contrast between Trump’s thumbs-up to a dictator and his snub of a US ally

Donald Trump gives a cold shoulder to Canada's Justin Trudeau, but a thumbs-up to North Korea's Kim Jong Un.
From right, Reuters/Leah Millis; AP Photo/Evan Vucci
A cold shoulder for Canada’s Justin Trudeau, a thumbs-up for North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
  • Steve Mollman
By Steve Mollman

Weekend editor

This article is more than 2 years old.

Today Donald Trump shook hands with Kim Jong Un at the US-North Korea summit in Singapore. The images of Trump glad-handing with Kim—and even giving him a thumbs-up—provide a sharp contrast to images of him just days earlier meeting with traditional US allies at the G7 summit in Canada.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
No big smile, at least.

In one image, the US president looks glum seated next to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. He’s looking away, with his hands between his legs, as Trudeau extends a hand. In another, Trump sits with his arms crossed in seeming defiance as German chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders stand next to him with displeased expressions.

Reuters/Leah Millis
Turning away.
Bundesregierung/Jesco Denzel/Handout via Reuters
Body language.

Trump left the G7 summit early, and then retracted his endorsement of the final statement from the group. He clashed with Trudeau after the Canadian prime minister said his country would enact retaliatory tariffs in response to US tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Those duties have also angered Germany and other EU members, who also promised counter-measures.

Unlike G7 members, Kim is a ruthless dictator of a country where the slightest political offense can lead to imprisonment, torture, or death for entire extended families. He has also threatened the US with nuclear weapons.

In other photos from the G7 summit, Trump and other leaders look less at odds, and Trump did refrain from smiling too much with Kim while shaking hands.

Yet in the above photos and others, the US president’s body language appears friendlier toward the dictator than to strong US allies. The contrast is striking.

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