Yes it is a respect thing. It could be due to Vinaya seniority or academic seniority- that they are in a higher class than he is. I have seen Geshe Sonam for example place khatags in the hands of several senior Vietnamese/Chinese monks when they greeted him.
The young DKR is extremely impressive! There was a recent film about him that really touched me. I like these low-key type tulkus rather than the "charismatic" ones, but perhaps that is a personal bias.
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths