WASHINGTON — Diplomacy is an art. It can also be awkward.
In a very public example of this fine line, it wasn’t the warm relationship between President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that lit up the reactions on social media Friday.
Upon arriving to the White House, Abe’s car took a wide turn and had to do a three-point turn in order avoid hitting the West Wing. Trump gave the prime minister a big hug in full view of the cameras before they went inside.
The viral moments continued during a photo op in the Oval Office, when Japanese media asked the two to shake hands.
A lot happened during the 19-second handshake between Donald Trump and Japan’s Shinzō Abe. pic.twitter.com/kIlLB3Izy8
— Quartz (@qz) February 10, 2017
Trump pulled Abe’s hand closer, patted it several times and held on for 19 seconds, according to the foreign media. When they completed the handshake, Trump pulled away and Abe made a regrettable facial expression.
Abe's facial expression is 🔥 pic.twitter.com/etYaiNH6vp
— Brenna Williams (@brennawilliams) February 10, 2017
“Strong hands,” Trump said to Abe as the media left the room.
Others on Twitter noticed a peculiar “yank and pull” handshake by the president, prompting speculation that it was a tactic.
Trump's yank and pull handshakes are a sure sign that he wants to be in control by pulling others off balance…
— L.K. Young (@lky_media) February 10, 2017
It’s not the first time that the president’s handshake has drawn attention on social media, including with Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
— Chris Cillizza (@CillizzaCNN) February 10, 2017
Omg. Trump and Tillerson do the crazy pull handshake to each other. https://t.co/G8GHMSde1Y
— 📎 Ethan Soutar-Rau (@mundoplano) February 10, 2017
Finally, on Friday the Twitterverse started speculating during a joint news conference about whether or not Trump was wearing an earpiece.
Abe conducted the meeting in his native language. For the tail end of the news conference, Trump appeared to be holding his earpiece to his ear.
Pres Trump doesn't appear to be wearing the translation earpiece during PM Abe's remarks. Wait, does POTUS speak Japanese? pic.twitter.com/MuHTDQjwhe
— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) February 10, 2017
All this happened before Trump enthusiastically exclaimed, “Let’s go to Florida!” Trump, Abe and their wives are scheduled to spend the weekend together at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.