President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un's historic handshake reveals both leaders desire to get the upper hand, a body language expert revealed.

The Monday meeting was formal and the leaders stepped onto the red carpet from opposite ends of the stage to greet each other with a highly anticipated handshake.

Speaking to, a body language expert broke down the moment the men appeared on stage, to the firm and tight handshake which she says displayed power on both ends.

Patti Wood, who has studied body language for decades, revealed how people with Western and Asian cultural customs would analyse the meeting differently - each would deem their own leaders "winners" of the first interaction.


Wood began identifying the men's body language the moment they appeared from either side of the stage.

She says the speed the men walked displayed "equality of power".

"They came out from each side of the stage at pretty much the same time and walked towards each other at the same speed, showing equality of power," the author of Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language & Charisma, says.

Then, in typical Trump fashion, he extended his arm first to initiate the handshake.

"He came out strong, put his hand out and stretched it to make himself appear even larger than he is," Wood says.

She calls the gesture Trump's "baseline behaviour".

"In business settings, it's typically the less powerful person who initiates the handshake," Wood says. "I find it interesting he uses it as a dominant move."

With one hand meeting the North Korean president's, Trump's left hand then reached up to grab Kim Jong Un's upper arm.

Wood calls it a "power handshake on the upper arm".

Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump's handshake at their historic meeting was tight and firm, displaying signs of power. Photo / AP
Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump's handshake at their historic meeting was tight and firm, displaying signs of power. Photo / AP

This is a gesture she has seen before while analysing presidential debates between the final candidates.

"In a presidential debate, the one who touches the upper outer arm with their left hand in the handshake is typically seen as the winner of the debate before it even starts," Wood says.

"Our limbic brain would say Trump has already won."

However, she adds that different cultures perceive touching differently.

"People in the US would say Trump won. People in other cultures would say he was unsophisticated and showed a lack of knowledge of other countries, therefore showing a lack of respect."

She notes that in the initial meeting, Kim barely responded to the president's touch, and instead remained still and strong.

"Restraint is a sign of power in many Asian cultures," Wood says. "Diplomats are taught not to touch in that way in Asian countries.

"Every time I'm witnessing body language on the world stage I'm cognizant of how other cultures would view it."

US President Donald Trump, right, reaches to shakes hands with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island. Photo / AP
US President Donald Trump, right, reaches to shakes hands with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island. Photo / AP

The handshake itself was long yet tight. Each of the men's hands only moved very slightly up and down.

"This shows both of them in competition not to have the other move his hand."

Wood says Trump typically likes to lead the handshake but was not able to in this case.

It also was not clear who let go first, meaning the men were equal. Trump typically holds on until the other person lets go.

The first to let go during a handshake "loses" the competition of who is in power and control, according to Wood.

Trump was also talking to Kim during their initial meeting, despite the two men using translators to communicate.

"I think that makes him [Trump] feel in control and he was talking to get Kim to do things, if you would," she says.

"The speaking was to initiate a change in what they were doing and it looks like Kim was understanding."

However, Wood adds that the most powerful person is not usually the speaker.

"They will observe and have more power in being quiet," she says. "The restraint in the body language means he's superior."

Trump and Kim shared a hearty handshake, exchanged pleasantries for the cameras and met one-on-one for 38 minutes with only translators present while the world watched with anticipation as their summit unfolded.

"Many people in the world will think of this as a form of fantasy from a science fiction movie," Kim told the president, in a remark repeated by a translator that could be heard.

"I feel really great. I feel really great," Trump told reporters as he sat down for his initial meeting with Kim. "We're going to have a great discussion, and I think a tremendous success. It's gonna be tremendously successful. And it's an honour, and we will have a terrific relationship, I have no doubt."

Kim – whose voice is rarely if ever heard in the west – told the US President, "Well, it was not easy to get here. The past worked as fetters on our limbs, and the old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles on our way forward. But we overcame all of them, and we are here today," he said, as interpreted by a translator.

"That's true," Trump said, shaking his counterpart's hand and making what appeared to be a joke that was audible to only the two men and their translators as reporters were led out out of the room.

Trump and Kim then held private talks with only their translators for about 45 minutes before walking together along a route that provided them with another opportunity to speak to press.

"Very, very good. Excellent relationship," Trump told a tightly restricted group of assembled journalists.