MANILA, Philippines – Remember that awkward moment with US President Donald Trump when leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their dialogue partners did their traditional handshake in 2017?
Something similar happened to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong when ASEAN did its traditional handshake in Bangkok on Sunday, June 23.
At the opening of the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, the 10 leaders of ASEAN were extending their hands for the ASEAN handshake when Lee, who was standing beside Duterte, took a few steps away from the Philippine leader.
This left a huge gap between them, preventing Duterte from reaching Lee.
The Singaporean prime minister then gestured to Duterte to come closer. Duterte did, pulling with him Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Southeast Asian leaders gathered in Bangkok on Sunday for a summit that tackles key regional issues, including the South China Sea dispute and the trade war between the US and China. On the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, Duterte also held meetings such as bilateral talks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
ASEAN is no stranger to awkward photo ops.
In November 2017, Trump was all fingers and thumbs during a carefully choreographed ASEAN photo op, failing to grasp whose hands he was supposed to be holding and breaking a lineup intended to showcase unity.
During this ASEAN Summit hosted by Manila, Trump was supposed to cross his arms and join hands with the men on either side of him.
But as others clutched the hands of the person to their left and their right, Trump used both of his hands to clasp the extended fingers of Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
The doubling up left summit host Duterte with a spare hand – and broke the line into two parts. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com