The differences between President Trump and former-President Obama are becoming more apparent.
According to The Daily Caller, when Mr. Obama visited with Japanese Emperor Akihito, he bowed. Yet when President Trump visited the emperor, he delivered a firm handshake.
According to Reuters, President Trump visited Japan for a number of reasons. He discussed defense options with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe regarding the two missiles that were fired over the country’s territory by North Korea.
Apparently, a deal was struck for Japan to purchase the means to shoot down the missiles from the United States. According to President Trump, “He (Abe) will shoot them out of the sky when he completes the purchase of lots of additional military equipment from the United States. The Prime Minister is going to be purchasing massive amounts of military equipment, as he should. And we make the best military equipment by far.”
Currently, Japan’s policy is to only shoot missiles that appear to be falling on Japanese territory or is determined to be an “existential threat.” It’s unclear if this policy will change in light of North Korean aggression.
President Trump was also in Japan to discuss economics. In a public statement, President Trump said, “America is also committed to improving our economic relationship with Japan. As president, I‘m committed to achieving fair, free, and reciprocal trading relationship. We seek equal and reliable access for American exports to Japan’s markets in order to eliminate our chronic trade imbalances and deficits with Japan.”
During his visit, he also met with the Emperor in a meeting that has garnered a lot of attention for the etiquette shown and it’s symbolic importance.
According to the Business Insider, bowing is customary in Japan as a sign of respect. This is complicated by the fact that many in the US see bowing as a sign of weakness and a handshake is preferred because it’s seen as a sign of respect between equals.
Yet a handshake is complicated in this situation because Japanese royalty is customarily not to be touched by guests. Appeasing both US and Japanese customs in a greeting is essentially a paradox that US presidents have long struggled with and been criticized for.
When former President Bill Clinton met with the Emperor, he bowed with his hands together. This was met with criticism from a White House official who stated: “Presidents don’t bow and Emperors don’t toast.”
Former-President Obama decided to do a handshake while bowing, which was criticized for mixing the customs and rejected by conservatives for showing weakness to a foreign dignitary. It may not have been so bad had the emperor bowed back as an equal sign of respect, but that was not the case.
President Trump’s handshake will no doubt be seen as disrespectful by those on the Left given that he failed to customarily bow while the Right will see it as mutually respectful and a greeting of equals.
President Trump shook hands with the Emperor of Japan and didn’t bow like President Obama did. Did Mr. Trump do the right thing?
Ultimately, the handshake was perhaps most appropriate. Given that international dealings and the mixing of cultures and customs are becoming more of a problem, the handshake is seen as the emerging customary greeting.
In the end, the Emperor himself didn’t seem bothered by the handshake and both he and President Trump moved on to more important issues — which is ultimately what etiquette critics should do.