All eyes are on the summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un as they decide North Korea’s nuclear future. Every step they take and move they make will be analyzed, and the opportunity for Kim Jong-un to use this meeting and its optics as propaganda is very real.
Though most of us won’t ever have to worry about appearing too friendly in a photo op, President Trump and members of his Administration should.
Kim Jong-un is the worst human rights violator of our time. He has killed members of his own family, he tortured and killed American Otto Warmbier, and there are estimates of up to 120,000 political prisoners in North Korea today.
Because we don’t want to legitimize the brutality of Kim Jong-un’s regime, it’s imperative that every photo op between him and Trump signal diplomacy, not friendship.
Here’s a study in what to do/what not to do from Secretary Pompeo’s first meeting with Kim Jong-un:
#1 — Keep your happiness in check
Yes, we want North Korea to be a better actor on the world stage, but it’s never a good look to laugh with a murderer. Maintain your composure and accept the gravity of the situation.
#2 — Remain cool
This photo is much better, but Pompeo’s hand on Kim Jong-un’s back seems a little too familiar. They aren’t friends. They will never be friends. So, there’s no need to act otherwise. The only acceptable contact is a hand shake to demonstrate business has been done.
#3 — Repeat after me
This photo is a perfect demonstration of how to pose with the worst human rights violator of our time. No smile means all business, and the only contact is a handshake which signals diplomacy not friendship.
This meeting will be a true test in discipline for President Trump as he loves a camera and a microphone. Fingers crossed the gravity of the situation will outweigh his desire to say cheese (or start another international bromance).