Weird commercials notwithstanding, the political and economic relationship between the U.S. and Japan is one fraught with global consequences. After all, Japan surpassed China in December when it became the owner of the most American debt — $1.13 trillion in government bonds compared to the previous winner’s $1.12. So no matter what unimaginable, off-the-cuff things were said or done on Friday, President Donald Trump‘s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wasn’t something to be dismissed out of hand. Unless you were Abe’s right hand, which was summarily crushed into nothingness by the awkwardness of Trump’s photo-op handshake.
The 19-second handshake was just that — a photo op for the American and Japanese journalists assembled in the White House for the pair’s meeting. Yet as NBC Nightly News writer Bradd Jaffy and countless others noticed on Twitter, Abe’s facial reaction to Trump’s manual embrace (and “strong hands” comment) spoke volumes. Here’s the handshake in full:
[Trump and Abe hold hands for 19 seconds]
Trump: “Strong hands.” [golf swing] pic.twitter.com/ytPGgwlI3W
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 10, 2017
And here’s the prime minister’s priceless reaction in GIF form:
Unsurprisingly, reporters, politicos and comedians couldn’t help reacting to the awkward handshake — not to mention Abe’s eye-rolling and teeth-gritting — with a predictable number of Twitter jokes. Hell, The Daily Show even slapped a timer onto C-SPAN’s video just to make sure 19 actual seconds had passed:
Trump and Japanese PM Shinzō Abe’s EPIC handshake. pic.twitter.com/NdFY2qFhqr
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) February 10, 2017
Some gave Abe plenty of credit for enduring Trump’s company:
While others slowed down the painful moment so that others could enjoy every mind-numbing second of it:
Yet this wasn’t the only thing Trump and Abe’s meeting gifted the Internet with. The two later held a joint press conference for Japanese and American news outlets, during which they delivered prepared remarks about U.S.-Japanese relations and took questions from the press. The problem? Trump apparently didn’t wear a translator earpiece, meaning he couldn’t follow along with Abe in real time. According to CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, Trump only laughed at Abe’s joke because advisors wearing their earpieces were giving him cues off camera.
— Daniella Diaz (@DaniellaMicaela) February 10, 2017
Once questions began rolling in from the media, Trump put his earpiece in — but that didn’t stop Twitter from pouncing.
And to add further insult to injury, when Trump tried to cut short the press conference after just three questions, Abe ignored the president’s escape attempt and took one more. “I want to thank everybody in the room,” said Trump, adding: “We’re gonna have a tremendous relationship, long-term relationship of mutual benefit with Japan. Thank you all very much.” Abe, on the other hand, wasn’t done:
Of course, as Jaffy subsequently noted on Twitter, the awkward handshake that started it all wasn’t the first time Abe had found himself in a weird manual embrace with an American politician: