A composite image showing Donald Trump saluting a North Korean general, and Vladimir Putin declining to.

  • Vladimir Putin chose not to return a North Korean general's salute during a summit with Kim Jong Un on Friday, Korean state TV footage shows.
  • When Donald Trump was faced with same situation at the June 2018 summit in Singapore he returned the salute.
  • At the time critics shook their heads at Trump and a retired US Army general said Trump just saluted a "regime of terror, murder, and unspeakable horror".
  • The White House responded to say it was "common courtesy" to return a salute.
  • Visit Business Insider South Africa for more stories.


Vladimir Putin refused to return a salute from one of North Korea's top generals on Friday, taking the opposite approach to President Donald Trump when faced with the same situation.

Putin was seen in a 50-minute documentary broadcast Monday on Korean state TV shaking hands with a line of dignitaries after a summit with Kim Jon Un in Vladivostok, Russia.

When a senior general chose to salute Putin, the president smiled, did not return the salute, and instead offered a handshake.

The moment was recorded and posted on Twitter by BBC Monitoring, which reports on foreign media.

On June 12, 2018, Trump met with Kim in Singapore, and was offered a salute by a general in a very similar scene. Unlike Putin, Trump returned the gesture.

Read more: Kim Jong Un rode his bulletproof armoured train from North Korea to Russia's extreme east for his first meeting with Vladimir Putin

Both Putin and Trump are commanders-in-chief of their nation's militaries.

Approaches to saluting officers in foreign militaries vary, but critics in the US argued that Trump's mark of apparent respect to the North Korean general gave Kim's harsh and repressive regime a legitimacy it does not deserve.

Here is a video of the encounter:

Major General Paul Eaton, a retired US Army general, released a statement on Trump's salute, saying:

"It is wholly inappropriate for the commander in chief of our armed forces to salute the military of our adversary, especially one which is responsible for a regime of terror, murder and unspeakable horror against its own people."

The White House rebutted the criticism. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "It's a common courtesy when a military official from another government salutes, that you return that."

Read more: 8 ways Trump could offend the Queen when they finally meet

Others suggested that Trump had not broken any protocol, but had allowed himself to be used for propaganda by the North Koreans, who would enjoy the image of their military being afforded respect by a US president.

Matt Lewis, a political commentator for The Daily Beast and CNN chalked Trump's actions up to well-meaning ignorance.

"Reciprocity is a natural instinct. If someone salutes you, your instinct is (probably) to return that salute."

"This is to say Trump wasn't being malicious; he was being played."

During the summit on Friday, Putin and Kim discussed nuclear disarmament and bilateral ties between Russia and North Korea.

Neither side announced it was taking any action after the summit.

The documentary made no mention of nuclear weapons or disarmament, but described the trip in these terms, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency:

"Is a historic event that has paved the way for an innovative turnaround that will further enhance traditional, good-faith and cooperative relations in accordance with the demand from a new era under the new situations. And it will shine in the solidarity history of North Korea and Russia."

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